The term TMJ literally means temporomandibular joint. You have two temporomandibular joints, a right one and a left one. These joints are located in front of the ears, at the junction of the temporal bone and the mandible bone, and are the hinges that allow the jaw to open and close. TMJ problems are more properly referred to as TMD, temporomandibular joint dysfunction. TMD is caused by a misalignment in the temporomandibular joint, which can be very painful and destructive to the jaw joints and teeth.
TMJ problems are associated with the following signs and symptoms:
Joint sounds and/or pain
Restricted jaw opening
Sudden change in bite
Ear problems (ringing, stuffiness, dizziness)
Worn, loose, or cracked teeth
Joint muscle pain or muscle hypertrophy
If you have two or more of the above issues, you need to be evaluated for temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD). An evaluation of TMD includes an assessment of the stability of the two temporomandibular joints, the jaw muscles, and the teeth.The number one cause of TMD, and the pain associated with it, is instability in one or more of these three components.In order to treat TMD, any mechanical instability needs comprehensive evaluation,and treatment as indicated. All treatment is directed at protecting the temporomandibular joints from progressive degenerative changes.
A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, which includes a clinical exam, photographs, radiographs, study casts, and bite studies, is the first, and often most important, step in the process.Once a diagnosis has been established, the treatment plan typically focuses on the mechanical realignment of the bite/jaw posture because this is the most probable cause of the pain. There are complex relationships and multiple components involved in obtaining optimally functioning temporomandibular joints. That is why TMD is best treated by a Prosthodontist whose residency includes training which provides the expertise and technical skills required to increase the likelihood of treatment success.