TMJ Disorders

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the small joint located in front of your ear where your skull and your lower jaw meet. This joint allows your lower jaw (mandible) to move so that you can talk, yawn and chew.
    
If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel each of these joints on the left and right sides of your head. These two joints function together and are quite flexible. Muscles and ligaments attach to and surround these joints and control their position and movement.

Temporomandibular joint disorders fall into three main categories:
  1. Internal derangement of the joint (dislocated jaw, displaced TMJ disc, condylar process injury of the lower jaw).

    TMJ
  2. Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, perforated TMJ disc).

  3. Myofascial pain disorders (pain and discomfort in the muscles around the jaw joints, neck and shoulder that can cause dysfunction).

Myofascial pain is the most common disorder of the TMJ. In addition, people may have a combination of the conditions listed above.

There are many different factors that can cause temporo-mandibular disorders, sometimes a mixture of many problems contribute to this disease.  Trauma, such as a blow to the TMJ or head can cause damage to the area causing pain and locking of the jaw joints.  This type of injury can also cause arthritis of the joint. Some authorities believe that a poor bite can cause TMJ problems. Others feel that stress, either physical or mental, may cause or aggravate TMJ disorders. People with temporomandibular disorders often clench or grind their teeth which can fatigue jaw  musculature and cause pain. Since there are so many factors that contribute to TMJ disorders, diagnosis is complex and sometimes may require multiple diagnostic procedures. It is important to properly determine the cause of TMJ problems because treatment is guided based on that cause.

You may wonder, "How do I know if I have a TMJ disorder?" Dr. Falcone can determine if there is dysfunction in your joints during a detailed TMJ examination. As a specialist in the areas of the mouth, jaws and teeth, Dr. Falcone is in a great position to diagnose your problem.
    
Some of the symptoms of TMJ disorders may include one or more of the following:

  • Limited movement of your jaw.
  • Locking of your jaw.
  • Painful clicking, popping or grating sounds in your jaw joints upon opening or closing.
  • A sudden change in your bite.
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth.
  • Frequent headaches, neck aches or muscle tightness around your jaws.
  • Sore, stiff muscles around your jaw, especially upon waking.
  • Multiple dislocations of your jaw joint, especially when you yawn.
  • Earaches and dizziness can also be related to temporomandibular disorders at times.

Remember that occasional discomfort in the jaw joints or chewing
muscles is common and usually not a cause for concern, only your
oral and maxillofacial surgeon can know for sure.

Most of the time, temporomandibular disorders are temporary and do not progressively worsen.  Therefore, simple treatment is usually all that is necessary to relieve your discomfort.

Sometimes, however, more invasive therapy is needed. Dr. Falcone will recommend a treatment plan that is right for you when he sees you for an examination and will be happy to discuss all of your treatment options with you.

If you have any other concerns about TMJ dysfunction and disorders, feel free to contact our office.

Help is only a phone call away!