TMJ Disorder

The mandible is a horseshoe shaped bone that is joined to the base of the skull by two joints. Each joint is like a ball fitting into a socket; with the ball portions being on the lower jaw while the two sockets are on the skull. A cushion or disc lies between the “ball and socket” and this helps the joint to glide smoothly. These complicated joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull are called the temporomandibular joints. The TMJ are unique in that they work in tandem giving the mandible the wide variety of movements necessary for the functions of chewing.

TMJ disorder is not fully understood however; there are a number of known factors that contribute to this disorder:

  1. An incorrect bite if left untreated (see Orthodontics)
  2. Sudden injury during sports (see Mouth Guards)
  3. A motor vehicle injury.
  4. Arthritis.
  5. Clenching or grinding the teeth (see Bruxism)

Some of the symptoms include persistent headaches, earaches, popping or crackling of the joint and a limited mouth opening.

For the treatment of acute symptoms, a soft diet, hot compresses or a cold pack with muscle relaxants and painkillers is recommended. Orthodontics may be required to correct a malocclusion. In the case of bruxism an acrylic splint is worn to relieve the pressure on the joint. In extreme cases surgery is indicated as a last resort.