The Temporomandibular Joint, or “TMJ” is located on the side of the face, just in front of the ear. It is a joint between the jaw and the base of the skull and it is exposed to significant forces through chewing in particular. It moves each time you swallow, speak or eat. Consequently, the TMJ has a significant potential to cause problems such as pain, headache and earache.
Problems with the TMJ may be seen in people who habitually clench or grind their teeth. This increases the wear and tear on the joint and may lead to problems. Dental problems may change the way a person chews and alter the forces through the joint.
Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction
The TMJ can be responsible for the following:
- Local pain over the TMJ;
- Referred pain to the ear, scalp, jaw and lower teeth;
- Clicking and popping over the joint;
- Dislocation or locking of the jaw; and
- Reduced ability to open the mouth.
TMJ Management options
In order to treat TMJ problems, a combination of treatments may be needed. Your Doctor or Dentist can best guide these treatments which may involve:
- Pain relief:
- Simple pain medications like panadol and some anti-inflammatories can reduce pain;
- More complex pain medications may be needed in some cases.
- Dental Review and Treatment:
- An assessment with your Dentist may identify problems with teeth leading to TMJ pain;
- Malocclusion, grinding and other jaw dysfunction can lead to pain and may require specific dental treatments such as splints and braces.
- Jaw Exercises;
- Heat and massage to the jaw muscles; and
- Consultation with an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.