Well for starters, the abbreviation TMJ itself isn’t a disorder, rather an abbreviation for a joint – the temporomandibular joint, in particular. Think of it as a hinge that allows your lower jaw, your mandible, to swing at the point where it connects to your skull. This joint is supported by a nice cushy cartilaginous disc to ease the motion, just like what we have in our elbows, knees, etc. This joint is pretty impressive when you think about it though – not only does it allow your jaw to move up and down to chew, but also back and forth, and side to side.
We know you’re moving your jaw around now to try this, by the way.
Why is TMJ Disorder bad?
Well, it’s painful for starters. Patients who live with TMJ Disorder experience pain while eating, irritation in the face, ears, and neck, and occasional headaches. In extreme cases the joint will even lock up, making it nearly impossible to eat until the joint has had time to relax. For many patients though, the most annoying part is the constant clicking. A patient with TMJ disorder will often feel and hear a clicking / popping sound whenever they open or close their mouths. Ouch!
How does someone get TMJ Disorder?
Unfortunately, there are a multitude of reasons why a patient may have TMJ Disorder. It could come from inflammation or arthritis or other genetic conditions where they’re prone to musculoskeletal disorders. It can also come from our habits – poor posture, vigorous gum chewing, and teeth grinding are all factors that can lead to your jaw joint turning into a rice crispy crackle box.
Is there any hope?
Yes! Depending on what’s causing your TMJ disorder, there are procedures and treatments that can alleviate the issue. Without knowing the specifics for your case though, it’s impractical to recommend treatment. It could be as simple as routine jaw exercises, or as complex (and rare) as surgery.
Drs. Berkers & Moeller are well-versed in TMJ Disorder! We’re here to help you understand your individual situation, and identify the best treatment for YOU.