Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are a group of conditions affecting the joints, muscles, ligaments, and other tissues surrounding this joint. The word disorder is often used instead of ‘disease’ because there may not be an actual disease process; however, TMJ problems can lead to pain, dysfunction, and degenerative changes in the joint.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Worth & Arlington

The TMJ is a complex joint situated on each side of the head where the lower jaw (mandible) meets the temporal bone of the skull. It is designed to allow for smooth and powerful movements of the mandible during chewing, speaking, yawning, and other functions. The TMJ is stabilized by a system of muscles, ligaments, and fascia which surround the joint. Disorders at this joint can lead to pain, dysfunction, and restriction of movement.

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The most common cause of TMJ disorders is frequent or constant force placed on the jaw by improper chewing habits. Examples of these habits include clenching or grinding the teeth (bruxism) and chewing on the front of the mouth with an exaggerated up and down movement. Other causes can include arthritis, injury or trauma to the head or jaw, genetic factors, hormonal changes, stress, and poor posture.

The main symptoms are the limited opening of the mouth (less than 2 inches), pain in muscles of mastication (jaw muscles) or elsewhere in the head or neck, popping, clicking, or grating sensation in the jaw when opening and closing it, headache, facial pain or toothache. 

Diagnosis of TMJ problems is often made based on examination findings by a dentist or orthodontist since the problem may be related to other dental issues. Bone and joint studies are useful to diagnose fractures, arthritis, and other causes.

Treatment is based on the diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and response to initial treatments. The treatment aims to reduce pain, restore normal function, and prevent or lessen long-term damage by stabilizing the joint. In some cases, a splint may be placed at night when it can be assumed that bruxism (tooth grinding) will be most prominent. Other treatments may include massage, physical therapy to relax tight muscles, or trigger point therapy, which applies pressure to tender spots in muscles, dietary changes, and stress reduction. Medications may also be considered to treat the pain and inflammation.

Surgery is considered when pain and dysfunction are severe, and other treatments have failed. Dr. Sonneveld will do several physical and imaging-based tests and evaluations to determine if restorative dental work, bite adjustment, or orthodontics (with or without jaw reconstruction) should be considered.  Injuries and arthritis can damage the TMJ directly or weaken the muscle ligaments supporting it due to stretching and tearing. This may lead to the cushion of the jaw joint, which is a cartilage disk, slipping out of position. The surgical procedure may involve the removal of the disc to relieve pressure on the nerve. Open joint arthroplasty to repair, restructure, or replace the disc is sometimes needed but is reserved for severe cases. 

TMJ disorders are complex; be sure to rely on the diagnosis and treatment by a skilled and experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon like Dr. Sonneveld.

Give us a call today at 817-927-1818 or fill out the form below to schedule an appointment. You’ll be happy you chose Facial & Cosmetic Surgery Fort Worth.