Temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly referred to TMJ, actually refers to a number of conditions that affect the joint that attaches the jaw to the skull. The temporomandibular joint is located on either side of the face, just below the ear, and it plays an essential role in chewing, speaking, and facial expression. TMJ disorder occurs when the temporomandibular joint does not function correctly.
Dental research estimates that more than ten million adults suffer from a temporomandibular joint disorder, and that up to 85 percent of adults will encounter some type of TMJ symptoms in their lifetime.
Common symptoms of TMJ disorder include jaw popping or clicking, headaches, difficulty opening the mouth, swelling on the side of the face, and headaches. TMJ symptoms are often exacerbated by stress, and are twice as prevalent in women as they are in men.
TMJ may affect a person's bite (occlusion), and can thus affect the results and longevity of any cosmetic and restorative dentistry treatments such as porcelain veneers, dental crowns, and even dental implants. A proper bite also ensures that the upper and lower teeth come into contact in the most comfortable manner possible. Occlusion difficulties associated with TMJ can lead to headaches and even broken teeth.
Traditional treatments for TMJ include:
- Bite correction
- Appliances such as oral splints or mouth guards, typically worn at night
- Reshaping biting surfaces of teeth to promote better occlusion
- Orthodontic treatment
- Maxillofacial (oral) surgery