The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located on each side of your head just in front of your ears. It is a ball and socket type joint that connects the upper and lower jaws. A soft cartilage disk acts like a cushion between the bones of the joint, allowing it to move smoothly. When this joint is injured, it can lead to localized pain in the jaw or temples, headaches, stiff jaw muscles and locking of the jaw. It may also cause jaw clicking or popping.
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) may be caused by injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, grinding and clenching, poor posture, stress, arthritis and gum chewing.
What are the signs and symptoms of TMJ?
The main symptom of TMJ dysfunction is pain in the jaw joint. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw, especially at the joint
- Popping or clicking of the joint
- Pain that feels similar to a toothache
- Ear pain or sounds of cracking in the ears
- Ringing or popping sounds in the ears or a sense of fullness in the ears
- Headaches and/or migraines
- Blurred vision
- Tight, stiff or sore jaw and neck muscles
- Localized pain in the face, mouth, jaw, cheek or chin
- Pain at the base of the tongue
- Difficulty chewing
- Shoulder pain
- Dizziness or vertigo
How is persistent TMJ treated?
While some cases of TMJ may go away without treatment, persistent symptoms of discomfort may need medical intervention. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription-strength pain relievers and anti-inflammatories.
- Muscle relaxants
These medications can be used for a limited time to help control pain and muscle spasms.
- Oral splints or mouth guards
A mouth guard can be worn at night to protect the teeth from grinding against each other and lessen the pressure of a clenched jaw.
- Physical therapy
In addition to exercises that stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles, treatments may also include ultrasound as well as moist heat and ice.
This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses small needles to irrigate the joint, remove debris and other inflammatory byproducts.
In some cases corticosteroid injections may help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with TMJ.
- 3D x-ray and/or MRI
These noninvasive techniques are considered the gold standard in imaging and can help identify the soft tissue components of TMJ. MRI is used to evaluate the articular disc and diagnose the early signs of TMD and joint effusion.
If you’re struggling with the pain and discomfort of a TMJ disorder, get the relief you need from the experienced team at Rex Baumgartner, DDS. He and his friendly staff are skilled in the diagnosis of TMJ and other pain disorders associated with the teeth, mouth and gums and are ready to provide a custom treatment plan for you. Call 661-528-4501 to schedule an appointment.