Temporomandibular Joint Problems

Your Temporomandibular (TMJ) joints are where your upper (maxillary) and lower (mandibular) jaws meet. This joint is a “ball and socket” type joint that has moving parts (disk and ligaments) which allow your lower jaw to move. This joint is also surrounded by groups of muscles that contract and relax, thus enabling you to open and close your mouth to bite, chew and talk.

When muscles are relaxed and balanced both jaw joints open and close comfortably and you are able to function normally with no discomfort. The TM joint is a complex working of muscles and jawbones with each part functioning to keep the joint working smoothly.

TM disorders develop when either muscles, joints or both have a problem. Tight muscles from clenching teeth (bruxism), stress, poor posture can cause jaw muscles to tighten. This tightening can pull the jaws closer together putting pressure on TM joints and wear teeth down. Joint damage can occur from an injury or from arthritis and this also can stretch or tear ligaments allowing the disk to slip out of position. There can be more than one problem and the problem could have existed for a long time. Either way the end result is discomfort and the symptoms can be in several areas. A dental evaluation helps to pinpoint the problem and a personalized treatment plan is the first step to resolve any discomfort. No one treatment can resolve the TM disorder completely but the dental health care team can help anyone suffering from TM to have a healthier more comfortable jaw.

TM symptoms can include:

  • Pain in your jaws, neck, and or head
  • Malocclusion- teeth that due not meet together properly
  • A jaw that will not move easily or smoothly
  • A clicking or crunching sound when you open your mouth

Treatment – restoring harmony to your jaw.

A comprehensive treatment plan would include:

  1. A patient’s understanding their own dental anatomy
  2. An evaluation including the best diagnostic tools:
    • When indicated transcranial x-rays, and/or MRI when prescribed by Dr. Keller or Dr. Tibbs
    • Dental impressions that record the patients bite
    • Dr. Keller or Dr. Tibb’s physical exam of the TMJ area
    • A complete medical and dental history recorded
  3. A patient’s self-care commitment along with appliance compliance, and the help of the health care professionals

Other Treatment Options