What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint. This is the name of the joint connecting the lower jaw to the upper jaw. This joint is directly in front of the ear canal. There are several muscles attached to the joint that move your jaw up, down, backwards, forwards, sideways. These muscles can cause a lot of pain if they get tense or spasm. This can happen if you grind or clench your teeth, have crooked teeth or are missing enough teeth that you no longer have an even bite. A small disc provides a cushion between the upper and lower jaw bones as the jaw moves. When this disc is displaced, the jaw may pop or not open and close smoothly, and may even get locked up.

So TMJ is better defined as dysfunction of the Teeth-Muscles-Jaw joint complex. This is why Dr. Lau’s approach to diagnosing and treating TMJ pain problems is a comprehensive evaluation, including 3-D imaging, occlusal exam and muscle studies – designed to find the cause of the problem. Treatment is aimed at aligning the teeth (your bite) and jaw muscles so the jaw joint is supported properly and jaw function is balanced. Our treatment protocol is to treat the cause of the problems and not just treat the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of TMJ?

Since ‘TMJ” can be caused by a combination of factors (teeth/bite, muscles, displacement within the joint, trauma), the symptoms of TMJ are varied. Some people may have only one symptom, while others experience a combination of pain symptoms. For example, the symptoms resulting from teeth problems can be much different from those resulting from muscle problems.

Symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Facial pain
  • Jaw tenderness
  • Ear pain or pressure
  • Clicking, popping or grinding sound when opening, closing the mouth or chewing food
  • Problem with opening or closing mouth
  • Unexplained tooth pain
  • Generalized neck ache/or stiffness

If the cause of the TMJ problem is not treated, the problem can become chronic and treatment more complicated. Over time, arthritic degeneration may develop in the jaw joint.