The temporomandibular joint is located where the lower jaw joins the skull and is aligned with the front of the ear. This joint facilitates the movement and function of the mandible (lower jaw). TMJ problems can present various symptoms, such as difficulty opening the mouth, severe headaches and earaches. Patients may also experience grinding or clicking noises in the TMJ when moving the jaw or opening their mouth.
Causes of TMJ
There are various causes of TMJ symptoms, including grinding the teeth while sleeping, arthritis and displaced discs. Popping or clicking noises along with limited movement of the jaw and pain when moving the jaw are signs of a displaced disc. Arthritis can sometimes even fuse parts of the TMJ together and prevent the jaw from moving completely.
Diagnosing TMJ can sometimes be quite difficult. Patients can experience pain in the area of the TMJ caused by stress and clenching the jaw tightly together while sleeping. This can result in a combination of issues, which are partly joint problems and partly muscle problems. Finding the exact cause of a TMJ issue is very important because proper treatment and resolving the issue depends on the exact cause.
Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeons
A maxillofacial surgeon should always be contacted when symptoms first appear and become noticeable. A maxillofacial surgeon is a specialist and can help properly diagnose the cause of TMJ problems and prescribe a course of action to fix the issue. They have all of the necessary equipment at their disposal and can involve other medical professionals such as physical therapists as needed.
Treating a TMJ problem can vary widely in what is required. It can range from relatively simple dental treatments to much more involved solutions such as surgery. Sometimes, a non-surgical course of action is recommended first to see if the problem can be cured without surgery. If that is not successful, then surgery will be considered as a viable alternative. The most important part of properly diagnosing TMJ problems is consulting with a maxillofacial surgeon when you first suspect there is a problem and following their recommendations carefully.