The joint of the lower jaw is known as the Temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), and it joins the skull in close proximity to the ears. Problems arising within either of these joints are often referred to as Temporo-mandibular joint disorders, or TMD. TMD can arise from many factors and sources, including: •External sources of trauma; these include motor vehicle accidents, often involving whiplash, or single blow to the head or neck, either as a result of a fight or sports injury.
• Internal trauma; this involves habits in which the joint is involved, for example, grinding or clenching the teeth; lip, cheek or nail biting, or holding foreign objects between the teeth e.g. pen/pencil chewing.
• Muscle overactivity; when muscles associated with chewing are over used or used in an abnormal manner, either when awake or sleeping. This may also include abnormal head and neck posture.
• Occlusion; this relates to the way the teeth bite together. An uneven “bite” can often produce TMD; similarly, if there are teeth missing, the teeth and jaw cannot function properly or evenly
• Systemic or general health factors; degenerative or rheumatoid arthritis traumatic and infectious arthritic conditions can afflict the TMJ.
• Internal joint structure; if there is an irregularity or structural problem with the joint and the cartilage on which it moves, this produces a mechanical dysfunction
Treatment is preceded by diagnosis, which can be done by physical examination by the doctor but sometimes a special x-ray of the jaw is used to aid in the diagnosis. Blood test may confirm a doctors suspiscion of rheumatiod arthritis. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medications for pain and swelling and heat and muscle relaxants may reduce pain, and tightness of the jaw muscles. If the problem is that the teeth are not aligned properly, our doctor can help you to correct the problem. If grinding the teeth at night is the problem, our doctor can give you a special bite plate. Surgery is only done in extremely painful cases or when there is damage to the joints.
Stress appears to be a key factor in causing TMJ. Chewing gum, chewy candy and anything that has to be chewed alot, can aggrivate this condition tremendously. Such things should be avoided.