What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It’s a very long phrase for a very small connection between your lower jaw and your skull. You’ve got one on each side of your face. Together with the muscles and tendons connected to them, they’re responsible for all of the movement you can make with your mouth and jaw. Your abilities to speak and chew are entirely dependent on your TMJ.
TMJs are extremely flexible joints that can move open and closed, forward and backward, left and right. They do a lot of work in a lot of directions. This makes them very susceptible to stress. This stress can show in the form of jaw popping, pain, tenderness, locking jaw, headaches, or muscle spasms.
TMJ disorders, or TMDs, are varied. They can be caused by:
- Age: Sometimes joints wear out. Over time, cartilage and bone erode from regular use.
- Arthritis: This condition aggravates and inflames joints in the body. The TMJ is no exception.
- Bruxism: Bruxism is chronic teeth grinding or clenching, usually as a result of stress or anxiety. Not only can it cause severe tension in the TMJs, but it can also wear down the enamel of the teeth.
- Injury: The TMJs are on the outside edge of the face. Car accidents, sports, and even just everyday trips and falls can easily damage these joints.
- Misalignment: Whether caused by injury or natural developmental processes, sometimes the jaw and the skull just don’t line up quite right. Using the joint while it’s out of place can cause a lot of pain and wear.
Most of these problems can be treated through rest and relaxation, and additional care from your dentist. The TMJ can only heal if it’s given a chance to do so.
North Star Dentistry offers nightguards, splints, and custom-fit mouthguards to aid and protect the TMJ.