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What You Should Know about TMJ Disorders

What You Should Know about TMJ Disorders

The temporomandibular joints are the joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull, and are often referred to as the TMJ. It is considered to be the most complicated joint in the body, as it must be able to both slide and pivot. As is the case with over ten million Americans, these joints can sometimes become painful or disruptive.

TMJD, or temporomandibular joint disorder is when one or both of these joints become damaged or inflamed. The cartilage disks begin to wear and/or shift caused by normal, everyday movement, such as talking or chewing. This can cause the nerves to become more sensitive, which can result in serious pain to the jaw, head, and/or neck. The joint itself can become inflamed, adding to this sensation. Other symptoms include toothache, jaw clicking or popping, lock jaw, and difficultly speaking and chewing.

Some common causes include:

• Repetitive movements of the mouth
• Opening the mouth too wide
• Misalignment of teeth
• Grinding or clenching the teeth
• Arthritis
• Injury to the jaw

Stress, while not able to cause the disorder on its own, can be a contributing factor.

Fortunately for TMJ patients, there are several remedies and treatments of varying intensities available. At-home tactics include light stretching and stress reduction, applying cold compresses to the area, and attempting to not grind or clench the teeth. Alternatively, an expert can prescribe a mouth guard, splints, or certain medications. If these treatments are not successful, arthroscopic, open arthroscopic, and total joint replacement surgeries may be recommended.

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