The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is attached on either side of your jaw to the bottom of your skill. The muscles around them let you open and close your mouth. Occasionally, those joints can get out of line or don’t move like they should, which is the cause of TMJ or TMD. It stands for: temporomandibular joint disorder.
Symptoms of TMJ
If you have temporomandibular joint disorder, you might experience:
- Pain in one or both of your jaw joints
- Pain when you chew
- Pain in your face or neck
- Stiff muscles in your jaw
- A change in how your teeth fit together
What causes TMJ?
TMJ can occur when a piece of cartilage slips out of place in the jaw, but it can also be caused by an injury or dislocated jaw, teeth or jaws that are aligned, grinding your teeth, or arthritis.
How is it diagnosed?
When you’re showing symptoms of TMJ, your doctor will first look for signs of inflammation or irritation in your jaw. They will listen for grinding noises and test out how it moves. If they need more confirmation, you might also need x-rays or other types of imaging scans to get a better picture of the joint.
How is it treated?
There is a variety of ways to treat TMJ including:
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Put hot or cold compresses on your jaw.
- Eat softer foods.
- Limit your jaw movements when possible.
- Do exercises to stretch and relax your jaw.
- Don’t chew gum or your nails.
Stress can also cause pain in your jaw. Exercise, meditation, and hobbies can help lowers stress and avoid a grinding or clenching jaw. If that doesn’t do the trick, your doctor could prescribe a mouth guard, pain killers, or anti-inflammatory medications. Occasionally, it might require seeing a dentist. Structural problems in the joint could need surgery, but talk to your doctor and they will design a treatment program that best fits your needs.