The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most complicated joints in the human body. It serves as a sliding hinge, connecting the upper and lower jaw through a series of ligaments, discs, muscles, and bones. Any problem that prevents this complex system from moving the lower jaw backward, forward, and side-to-side, is known as a TMJ disorder. TMJ disorders, depending on the type, can cause significant pain and discomfort in your jaw joint. At Rockwall Oral Surgery, we specialize in the surgical treatment of TMJ disorders.

Causes of TMJ Disorders

The exact cause of a patient’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine because of the joint’s complexity. The joint combines a hinge action with sliding motions. This is made possible, in part, by a small shock-absorbing disk that normally keeps the movement smooth. This disk also separates the cartilage covered bones that interact with the joint. A painful TMJ disorder can occur if the disk erodes or moves out of alignment. Arthritis can also damage the joint’s cartilage. Trauma to the jaw or jaw joints sometimes plays a role, but most experts suggest that certain tasks, either mentally or physically exhausting, will aggravate your TMJ. This includes excessive habits that overuse the muscles like clenching or teeth grinding.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

The symptoms of TMJ disorders include:

Jaw pain or soreness this is prevalent in the morning or late afternoon
Jaw pain or soreness when you bite, chew, or yawn
Tenderness of the jaw muscles
Headaches (similar to migraines), pressure behind the eyes, and earaches
Issues closing or opening your mouth
A popping or clicking sound when you close or open your mouth
Locked or stiff jaw
A change in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together
Sensitivity issues with your teeth

These symptoms can also be related to other oral health problems, another reason it may be difficult to diagnose your condition. During your appointment, the dentist will review your medical history, and look for the many signs and symptoms of TMJ.

Treatment of TMJ Disorders

There are different treatments available, depending on the severity and form of your TMJ. Before we consider surgical intervention, we may recommend other forms of treatment to help reduce your symptoms. The majority of cases can be treated with simple techniques that relax the joint and surrounding muscles. You can reduce the harmful effects of clenching or grinding by wearing an appliance, custom-fit to your mouth, that will keep your teeth separate. You may also want to learn relaxation methods or seek professional counseling to help eliminate stress.

When all else fails, TMJ surgery may be the only solution. At Rockwall Oral Surgery, we cover a wide variety of surgical procedures that involve the area where the jaw meets the skull. During TMJ surgery, we may clean and smooth the bone surfaces, remove dead tissue, reposition the jaw, or remove and replace the discs that separate your joints. In many cases, we try to minimize the surgery by operating through three small incisions in the jaw. With TMJ surgery, our dentists can relieve your pain, and get your jaw back on track!