What is a TMJ disorder?

The term TMJ refers to the jaw joints located on either side of the skull, just below the ears. Technically known as the Temporomandibular Joint, the TMJ is supported by a complex group of muscles attached at different points on the skull and the lower jaw. These muscles allow the jaw to open and close, as well as slide left to right.

There are many factors that must operate in harmony for the health and comfort of the TMJ. When any of these factors fail to function properly, damage and discomfort can result. This improper functioning of the joint is considered a disorder, or TMD, Temporomandibular Disorder. The term TMD encompasses a wide variety of conditions that cause discomfort to the joint or damage to the structures of the head, neck, and mouth. An experienced dentist is the best resource for questions and concerns regarding TMD.

Excessive or uncontrollable clenching and grinding of the teeth, known as bruxism, is a very common form of TMD. The muscles that support the joint can become stressed, resulting in head and neck pain, frequent headaches, flattened areas on the enamel, sore teeth, chipped and broken teeth, and bone loss around the teeth. Over time, the teeth can become sensitive to temperature and pressure, as the ligaments that support the teeth become inflamed, much like a sprained ankle.

Popping and clicking of the jaw joint can also indicate TMD. Where the lower jaw attaches to the jaw joint, damage to the joint can lead to popping and clicking upon opening, locking of the joint in some cases, and pain in the muscles surrounding the joint. Frequently, when the teeth do not fit together properly, an undue amount of stress is placed on the TMJ, leading to improper functioning of the joint. Typically, the joint will be forced into an uncomfortable position to compensate for the fit of the teeth.

A comprehensive examination can typically unveil most TMJ disorders. Many of the signs and symptoms can be easily disguised or ignored. If you feel that you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, seek the advice of Carlos Rafael Ibañez, a highly experienced dentist in Charlottesville.

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