Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (also known by the acronym TMJ or TMD) is a disorder associated with the temporomandibular joint, which is like a connector that links the jaw with the temporal bones that are part of the skull. This joint is pretty important, since it’s the one that allows the jaw to move, making it possible to talk and chew food.
When there are issues with this joint, TMJ is usually to blame.
Causes of TMJ
Despite the prevalence of TMJ, dentists continue to be unclear about exactly what causes TMJ. According to doctor Joshua Hong DDS, some of the main causes of this condition have been narrowed down to:
- Pressure on the Joint – Actions such as grinding or clenching of the teeth will apply pressure on the joint, and may cause damage.
- Disc Movement – The joint is made of a ball and socket. Movement of the disc between these two elements could be the cause too.
- Stress – The collection of muscles that surround the jaw tighten and move around when an individual is stressed, affecting the joint.
- Other Causes – Arthritis and other medical conditions may also affect the joint.
Symptoms and Signs of TMJ
TMJ will cause a person to experience extreme pain, which can go on for years. TMJ symptoms typically begin to show up between the ages of 20 and 40, and include:
- Pain – Widespread pain across different parts of the face, jaw joints and even the shoulders.
- Stiffness – Difficulty in opening the mouth wide while eating, or incorrect bites, almost as if top and bottom teeth aren’t meeting like they are supposed to.
- Strange Sounds – The jaw makes odd sounds that weren’t there before, ranging from popping sounds to clicking ones.
- Swelling – Significant amount of swelling on the sides of the face.
TMJ Surgery and Treatment
TMJ pain and other associated symptoms have a wide range of treatment options available, which include home remedies as well as procedures such as dental filling, which can alleviate most problems associated with TMJ. If all these options fail, TMJ surgery would be advised to the patient.
Here are the three types of surgery that dentists recommend for patients with TMJ disorders:
- Arthrocentesis – This is the surgery that is performed if the jaw is locked, and is advisable only when the patient has no history of TMJ. In this type of surgery, after a dose of anesthesia, the dentist will use needles to unlock the joint.
- Arthroscopy – This surgery is performed using a gadget called arthroscope, hence the name. The arthroscope is a tool which is a combination of a lens with light, and allows the doctor to ‘see’ through the lens into the patient’s mouth. Using this tool, the dentist will be able to remove damaged tissue and readjust the joints. This type of surgery is preferable because it leaves only a minor scar, and that means fewer chances of post-surgery complications.
- Open-Joint Surgery – This is used as a last-resort surgery when arthroscopy is not an option. It is chosen when the jaw joints have worn down severely, if there are tumors, or the joints are scarred.
Dental Filling – Advantages and Disadvantages
One of the solutions for TMJ is the use of dental fillings, and the most cost-effective and popular dental fillings are made of composite resin. Let’s look at the major advantages and disadvantages of composite resin fillings:
Composite Resin – Advantages
- The fillings can be made to match the color of the tooth
- All that is needed is a single visit to the clinic
- These bond directly to the tooth
- They occupy less space and that means less drilling of the teeth
- Composite’ means that multiple materials can be used, forming a cocktail with the best of everything
Composite Resin – Disadvantages
- Not as long lasting as amalgam or silver fillings
- Chances of shrinking and wearing away over time
- The procedure lasts longer, increasing the cost of the surgery
TMJ is a joint-related disorder that if left unchecked, could lead to serious jaw problems. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with it, make sure you visit your dentist for a checkup at the earliest, so it can be nipped in the bud!