The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge connecting the lower jaw to the skull. The TMJ enables your mouth to open and close and move side to side smoothly. You can feel these joints working by placing your fingers directly in front of your ears and opening and closing your mouth.
TMJ disorder is typically classified when patients experience pain in this joint and the surrounding muscles or have difficulty chewing. You may have a TMJ disorder if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty biting or chewing foods
- Trouble opening the mouth all the way
- Pain in the facial muscles, around the ears, or in the jaw joints
- Popping or clicking sounds when opening/closing the mouth
- Increased headaches, dizziness, ear pain, ringing in the ears, or hearing loss
The cause of TMJ disorders is not always clear, but it is important for our doctors to understand how the problem first arose. Sometimes the disorder has multiple causes, and a consultation is necessary to begin properly treating the problem.
Common causes of TMJ disorders include
- Injury to the jaw, neck, or head
- Excessive jaw clenching or grinding of the teeth
- Displaced or perforated disk in the joint
We will determine your treatment plan based on the specific cause (or multiple causes) of your disorder. After an examination, you may need additional X-rays or a CT scan to help pinpoint a functional problem. Sometimes, your TMJ disorder may not be severe and can be relieved with self-managed care through the use of pain relievers, bite guards, behavioral modification, or physical therapy. But if your condition is severe and requires surgery, the procedure performed will be based on your specific problem.
If you think you may have a TMJ disorder, please contact one of our two office locations in Arroyo Grande or Santa Maria, CA, for a consultation. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are specially trained experts in all areas of the mouth, teeth, and jaws. An oral surgeon is your best option for correctly diagnosing and treating a TMJ disorder.