TMJ is the abbreviation for TemporoMandibular Joint. This joint is what allows your jaw to move, and is unique in many ways. It is the only joint in the body with a definitive stopping point [your teeth]. It is also unique in that your jaw not only moves up and down, but side to side, and front and back as well.
How do I know if I have a problem? TMJ disorders can cause symptoms such as headaches, clicking and popping [the sound of your cartilage dislocating], crepitus [crunching cartilage that sounds like crackling paper], and even neck and back pain. Lock-jaw, ear-aches and dizziness may also be symptoms of a TMJ disorder.
These problems are usually caused by bruxism [clenching and grinding your teeth], but may also be the result of arthritis, trauma, or a dislocated disc of cartilage. Stress and Sleep Apnea may also play a part in increasing the severity and frequency of TMJ disorders.
How can you help me? As with any disease, the sooner we catch it, the better your prognosis is. If you are experiencing or have experienced any symptoms described above, be sure to tell your dentist right away. Treatment most commonly involves using a custom fabricated splint to relieve muscle activity, correct poor bites, and prevent damage to teeth and joints caused by grinding. Other treatment options may involve stress reduction, exercises, and medication to reduce inflammation. Surgical options are available in severe cases.