Your Jaw joint is also called your Temporo-Mandibular Joint or T.M.J for short. Your TM joint is the most important joint in the head and neck area and is very versatile in the movements it can perform – which are beyond the capabilities of any other joint in the body.
You might have symptoms ranging from clicking, popping, pain, ear pain, sore jaw muscles, difficulty opening wide, headaches, locking joints, aching teeth, difficulty chewing and eating, neck pain or other challenges that can be attributed to TMJ problems. In some cases, it may not be the joint itself but other elements such as wisdom teeth, clenching and sleep – grinding, muscle soreness or the effects of missing teeth that can cause similar symptoms.
The pain can be very varied amongst individuals. It may be dull, sharp and searing, almost constant, sometimes intermittent or radiating. It hurts over the joint, immediately in front of the ear, but pain can also radiate elsewhere. It often causes spasms in the adjacent muscles that are attached to the bones of the skull, face, and jaws. Pain can be felt at the side of the head (the temple), the cheek, the lower jaw, and the teeth.
In most patients, pain associated with the TMJ is a result of displacement of the cartilage disc that causes pressure and stretching of the associated sensory nerves. The popping or clicking occurs when the disk snaps into place when the jaw moves. In addition, the chewing muscles may spasm, if they do not function efficiently, and cause pain and tenderness.
Sometimes these problems may be due to trauma as a child (when the joint is developing and growing), problems in the structure of the joint itself (pathology), trauma due to impact as an adult, clenching and night –grinding (called Bruxism) or even abnormalities in your bite and the way your teeth meet. Problems with the way your teeth fit together occur in many different ways. Some bite problems cause discomfort or even pain, and that pain can masquerade as problems that you would not readily associate with your teeth. Some bite problems can cause major damage to your teeth without producing any obvious discomfort till years later.
Sometimes these can be corrected with the use or a “night-guard” or “NTI appliance” for bruxing (night time grinding) or clenching. If the problem is more severe, we will refer you to a specialist for further evaluation.