Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain

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What is the TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint or TMJ is a complex joint, connecting the base of your skull and your lower jaw, and can be located right in front of your ear. The joint itself, is made up of two parts: the mandibular condyle and the glenoid fossa and is held within a “capsule” of connective tissue. A fibrous tissue, known as the articular disc, sits between the mandibular condyle and the glenoid fossa, and forms a “cap” over the condyle. This disc acts as a “shock absorber”, distributing the load across the joint space. The anatomy of the TMJ allows it to rotate and slide properly within the joint when we are using our jaw. Our jaw muscles and ligaments, support our jaw joint and are actively involved in helping our jaw open, close, move left, right and forward.

Why do we get TMJ pain?

Occasionally, TMJ pain may occur because of a dysfunction within the TMJ or it’s supporting structures. At Perth Oral Medicine and Dental Sleep Centre, we specialise in helping diagnose and manage your specific TMJ dysfunction.

Common signs and symptoms

There are a variety of signs and symptoms that can accompany TMJ pain.  Some of these include:

  • Pain in front of the ear
  • Pain when opening or closing the jaw or eating tough foods
  • Aching pain along the jaw muscles and neck
  • Headaches along the temples or side of the head, especially in the morning
  • Jaw clicking, crunching, clunking noises
  • Jaw locking
  • Inability to open wide
  • Ear fullness or muffled ear sounds
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Feeling that teeth or jaw are not aligned correctly
  • Tooth pain (referred odontalgia)

Causes

There are many causes of TMJ (jaw) pain. At the Perth Oral Medicine and Dental Sleep Centre, our specialists are experienced in assessing the underlying cause for your TMJ pain. Some common causes of TMJ pain include:

Diagnosis

Here at Perth Oral Medicine and Dental Sleep Centre, our specialists will conduct a comprehensive consultation, including an in-depth examination of your TMJ and TMJ function, to better understand the root of your TMJ pain. You may also require additional testing such as an MRI or a CT scan of your jaw joints to get more information about your TMJ dysfunction.

Treatment

Treatment for TMJ pain is dependent on your underlying TMJ disorder. The goal of treatment is to reduce your TMJ pain and improve your TMJ function. Quite often, our TMJ specialists may advise the following:

  • Maintain a soft diet
  • Use of heat or cold packs
  • Jaw stretching/strengthening exercises
  • Prescribe medications (analgesia, anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxants) specific to your needs
  • Fabricate of an occlusal (dental) splint, specifically designed to address your TMJ disorder
  • Other injectable therapies including Botox, Cortisone, Trigger point injections and Prolotherapy
  • Low level laser therapy for TMJ pain 
  • TMJ surgical procedures

Here at the Perth Oral Medicine and Dental Sleep Centre, we recognise that TMJ pain can be complex. As such, our specialists often work together in a multi-disciplinary fashion with other health professionals in WA to best tailor a treatment plan for your specific needs.

Recovery

Recovery from TMJ pain varies amongst different people. Most people get better with time from their TMJ disorder. However, people who suffer from a lot of stress in life, can develop chronic TMJ pain and may require long-term, ongoing care. Our specialists understand that TMJ pain affects everyone differently, and as such focus on taking a personalised approach to your care.

 

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