TMJ: What is TMJ and How Can a Dentist Help

There is a joint on either side of the face that is located in front of the two ears. The temporal bone of the skull and the mandible (or jaw bone) articulates at this point to form the temporomandibular joint. This is a type of a hinge joint as it permits a forward and backward motion as well as a side by side motion. This joint is the reason we can yawn, talk, chew and even swallow conveniently. It is a complex joint that has a lot of facial muscles and ligaments attached to it.

Sometimes, this joint can undergo different disorders. This usually causes pain and makes it difficult to perform all of the activities stated earlier. This is called Temporomandibular Joint disorder, also known as TMD.

Causes of TMD

This cause of this disorder is not fully certified. However, research has been able to highlight a few reasons explaining why pain and discomfort can come from the joint, some of which are highlighted below:

Arthritis: Inflammation of the joint muscles or a rupture of the ligament has been found to be a cause of the joint disorder. The muscle can be inflamed due to trauma or an infection.

Grinding and clenching of the teeth harder than normal can actually cause a temporomandibular joint disorder.

The stiffness of the neck and head muscles, which can be due to stress or frustration, have been found to be a potential cause of this disorder. While under stress or tension, many do not realize that their muscles are tightened. This can be a major cause of TMD. 

Symptoms of TMD

The symptoms associated with temporomandibular disorders are a serious pain. There tends to be inflammation and tenderness of the cheek. The areas surrounding the ear as well as muscles of the face are also typically affected. Because the symptoms can be so severe, it also can become very difficult to chew, swallow, yawn, or even smile. temporomandibular disorder poses serious discomfort and most times can even make it impossible to sleep through the night. 

How a dentist can help

Most times, this disorder will wear off by itself. The individual will then regain his or her health in no time. However, if the disorder continues to persist, it is very important to visit a dentist. The dentist will, in turn, do a thorough examination of the joint and request for an x-ray shot if necessary. The patient can then be treated using the following techniques:

- The dentist will inform the patient to periodically perform a cold or warm massage on the joint and the inflamed areas of the face.

- A pain reliever is also prescribed in order to help get rid of the pain accompanying it.

- Also, if the patient is finding it difficult to sleep, the dentist will prescribe medications to take care of that.

- The patient will also be informed to only chew light foods for as long as this pain persists. He or she might also have to wear an occlusal splint which is placed on either the upper or lower set of teeth. This is done so that the teeth do not come together once the mouth is closed.

If after doing all of these, the pain still persists, then the patient will be referred to a dental specialist or a physiotherapist who will, in turn, take proper actions. Surgeries are not usually performed on patients suffering from TMD. It is recommended to follow the techniques listed above first and foremost. 

Request an appointment here: or call Pier 210 Dental Group at (530) 982-4077 for an appointment in our Auburn office.

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