If you are experiencing facial pain, difficulty chewing, or locking of your jaw, you may be experiencing TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder. Albuquerque dentist Tim Kelly is an expert in treating TMJ disorder, and uses today's most advanced tools and techniques to help his patients achieve long-term relief.
What is the TMJ?
The TMJ is an acronym for “Temporal Mandibular Joint”. This joint is located just in front of the ears on either side. It is composed of the Temporal bone on the sides of the skull and the right and left head of the lower jaw called the mandible. The union of these two structures forms a joint similar to the knee or hip. However the TMJ is quite complicated due to our ability to open wide, move our jaw from right to left and forward.
The most complicating aspect of this joint is that the teeth when placed together they position the mandible in the temporal bone. Therefore in a healthy joint, the position of the TMJ’s matches this orthopedic position when the teeth all fit together.
What causes TMJ pain?
There are numerous causes and symptoms of TMJ disorder. The TMJ is a load bearing joint , this load is exerted when we chew. The pain arises when there is a discrepancy between where the teeth want to fit together and the ideal orthopedic position of the mandible. It is this precise reason that a muscular response in the form of tension starts. The chronic muscle tension causes a variety of problems: pain, headaches and neck/shoulder tension.
Long-term Effects of a TMJ Disorder
Many TMJ sufferers clench or grind their teeth at night (teeth wear down). This reaction is a result of the brain and muscles responding to the inaccurate position of the mandible. A joint (any joint) will ultimately fail due to the overloading of the structure.
Note that in a healthy TMJ the condyles (ball of the joint) are seated in the socket and are round in shape. At right you will see a healthy condyle, the left condyle has changed due to osteoarthritis breakdown (from overloading). This type of breakdown is due to chronic over loading from an inaccurate bite. As you can imagine this condition is painful.
Additional Signs and Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder
- Teeth wearing down (getting shorter and shorter)
- Broken back teeth that may be loose
- History of multiple root canals/crowns
- Bony growths behind your teeth called Tori
Associated dental history:
- Orthodontics with or without extractions
- Use of headgear
- Multiple crowns, bridges or veneer treatment
Symptoms (painful events):
- Tension or migraine headaches
- Facial pain near or around the TMJ
- Shoulder, neck and upper back pain
- Waking with fatigued facial muscles
- Sleep disturbance in the form of snoring and or obstructive apnea
“We believe that every patient has infinite worth and should be treated with dignity and respect. We are dedicated to educating, creating awareness, and empowering people to make treatment choices that are consistent with their own beliefs, needs and desires.” Dr. Tim Kelly