Do I have TMJ?

tmjpainQ. My mother had TMJ and had to wear a mouth guard. I have popping in my jaw but no pain. Do I have TMJ and how do you treat it?

 

A.  First, let’s get a few terms straight.  When people say they have ‘TMJ’, they are usually referring to Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).  TMJ is the acronym for the Temporomandibular Joint (AKA your jaw joint).  So yes, you have TMJ; you have a right and a left one! 🙂  The real question is ‘Do I have TMD?’  Temporomandibular Disorder refers to a group of disorders that affect the joint and associated tissues.

Some signs and symptoms that could indicate a problem with the TMJ are:

  • Pain in the jaw joint
  • Muscle tenderness in the face and neck
  • Popping and clicking in the joint
  • Crepitus (a grating sound or feeling) in the joint, even if you are not experiencing pain
  • Tooth wear
  • Tooth mobility
  • Tooth pain
  • Tooth breakage

If you think you have TMJ problems, consult your dentist. They will help you determine if you have joint instability or dysfunction, what level of dysfunction is present, and what is needed to provide relief.

Your dentist can evaluate your joint health by:

  • Taking note of the type, duration, and intensity of your symptoms
  • Evaluating your joint for pain during movement
  • Examining your head and neck muscles for tension or tenderness
  • Examining your teeth for signs of instability
  • Listening to your joints with Doppler technology
  • Taking x-ray images to look at the hard tissue in the joint
  • Taking other diagnostic images to look at the soft tissue in the joint

Because there are many different types of joint problems that are classified as TMD, there is often much controversy and differing opinions, even within dentistry, about what the best course of treatment is. In my humble opinion, it is similar to asking what kind of treatment is the best for an injured knee.  Doesn’t it depend on what is wrong with the knee? The type of treatment that will work for you (that will produce stability in the joint and eliminate discomfort) will depend on what the cause of the problem is.

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