Temporomandibular Joints Explained
The initials of TMJ stand for Temporomandibular Joints, which are the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull. Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, sometimes called TMD or TMJ Syndrome, is the group of symptoms that result when the jaws, teeth and muscles fail to work together in harmony because the jaw joints are out of place.
The temporomandibular joints are arguably the most important joints in your body because they can affect so many other parts of your body. Your lower jaw is attached to your head and neck by numerous muscles, so dysfunction of the TMJ can affect the balance of your head, neck and shoulders, which can lead to pain or problems in all areas of your body. Though your body has the ability to compensate for Temporomandibular Joint stress, eventually this ability deteriorates and symptoms develop. A TMJ that’s not working properly can cause many different symptoms and an overall problem in general health. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms…
• unexplained tooth loss
• worn, chipped or cracked teeth or dental restorations
• pain or soreness in or around the jaw joints, neck, shoulders, back or face
• pain in teeth that seems to move around
• clicking or grating sounds in the jaw joints
• limited movement or locking jaw
• numbness in fingers and arms
• congestion or stuffiness of the ears
…the culprit might be a misaligned temporomandibular joint.
There are as many reasons for problems with the TMJ as there are symptoms. Frequently, trauma, such as a blow to the face in a car accident, is the initial cause of TMJ Dysfunction. Crooked teeth, a deep overbite or loss of teeth may also strain the muscles of the jaw, as can stress or poorly fitted dental appliances. Even poor posture can trigger TMJ problems.
Since there are many causes of TMJ Dysfunction, a careful study must be carried out to determine the cause of discomfort. The treatment for TMJ Dysfunction must be tailored to the particular needs of the patient and may involve physical therapy, crowns, orthodontics, reshaping of the teeth and in extreme cases, surgery. The goal is to bring the TM joint and the muscles of the jaw into a comfortable and healthful balance.