TMJ stands for temporal-mandibular joint, or in other words, the jaw joint. Problems associated with this joint are complex, as many factors can play a role. TMD (temporomandibular joint disorders) occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, teeth, and/or surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and movement of the jaw. Causes may include grinding or clenching the teeth, dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket, presence of arthritis within the TMJ, and stress. More women than men experience TMD, and it is seen most commonly in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Common symptoms include the following:
- Pain in the jaw muscles
- Limited movement of the lower jaw
- Clicking/popping sounds
- Muscle spasms
- Locking of the jaw, either open or closed
Dental treatments for the condition can include replacing missing teeth, moving teeth, adjusting the bite, filling gaps between teeth, anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants, diet control etc. There is no one solution that is right for all cases. Many times a plastic mouthpiece is used to prevent clenching or grinding that is contributing to the problem and allows the inflammatory process to calm down. If untreated and taken to extremes, surgery may be required to repair a badly damaged joint.