TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. This joint is very mobile and allows a person to talk and chew. Unfortunately, the TMJ can dislocate easily on one or both sides; this is known as a temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. When the dislocation occurs, a person can experience pain in and around the ear, pain and stiffness in the jaw, pain when chewing tough or hard foods, an inability to open the mouth wide, and a popping or clicking noise when opening the mouth. Some sufferers also experience headaches and dizziness.
TMJ disorder can be diagnosed by a physician or dentist. The physician or dentist will use various methods to determine whether or not a person is suffering from TMJ disorder or some other problem.
The causes of TMJ disorders are varied, and can include: trauma from car accidents, an injury or wound to the tissue of the TMJ, overbite, improperly fitted dentures, clenching and grinding of the teeth, or even arthritis.
Treatments include anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen), muscle relaxants, ultrasound, heat therapy, or bite guards to prevent grinding of the teeth at night. Splints can be used to realign the jaw to relax and reduce stress. A chiropractor can assist in strengthening and realigning the area around the neck and jaw, so that the TMJ can function properly. Surgery on the TMJ is controversial, and most professionals think of it only as a last resort.