Anatomy of the TMJ

TMJ is an acronym for Temporomandibular joint. It is the joint that connects the lower jaw or mandible with the rest of the skull. This joint is located just under the ear. The joint is considered the bones and the supporting muscles that help move and control the movement of the bones. This joint is functioning normally during speech, chewing and yawning. The joint may be functioning abnormally during clenching and grinding and may be damaged during injury to the face or jaw. Other problems with the system can cause damage such as mis-aligned teeth or abnormally formed or abnormally aligned jaw structures. The joint should be protected with a mouth guard during sports or a night guard during sleep if clenching and grinding is suspected. If improper alignment of the teeth or jaw is suspected, orthodontic treatment should be considered.

TMJ Teeth Grinding pain

If the joint is subject to injury, or misuse through clenching and grinding, or challenges due to misalignment of the teeth or jaws, pain can occur due to inflammation in the joint and muscles. The pain can be a sharp pain located just below the ear, jaw pain in the lower jaw during chewing, or in the form of a tension headache or migraine. Also, joint sounds such as popping or clicking or ground glass noises can be heard during opening and closing of the mouth.

tmj disorders

TMJ disorder can be any problem with the jaw joint, muscles or functioning of the mechanism. Disorders are usually classified based on whether they are muscular or joint related. Headache or dull more diffuse pain usually comes from the muscles. Sharper pain under the ear, or joint noises usually come from the joint and are associated with the jaw bones and disc.

tmj treatment

TMJ treatment is prescribed depending on the cause of the TMJ disorder. If clenching and grinding is the cause of the pain, then a mouth guard for TMJ is prescribed. If misalignment of the teeth or jaws is the cause of the problem, orthodontic therapy should be considered. Preventive treatment should always be considered before pain ensues. If inflammation in the joint or muscles is a component, anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed. Heat packs can help if the muscles are involved in the pain.