Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is also known as TMJ in the dental and medical community. This common oral ailment affects 3 million people in the US each year. TMJ mainly revolves around pain and compromised movement of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. This is mainly caused by inflamed joints that connect the jaw and cheek bones. This oral issue can also be caused by teeth-grinding, along with injuries to the jawbone and surrounding bones or tissues. While this common issue mainly affects people from 19-60 years of age, it can happen to anyone at any age.

TMJ – Understanding the Essentials

The temporomandibular joint works like a sliding hinge. In fact, it connects your jawbone to your skull, and is responsible for normal jaw movements; up and down, back and forth and side to side. TMJ dysfunction, however, can lead to the following:

  • Varying degrees of pain and discomfort. Locked jaws and tightness accompanied by crackling sounds when you try to move or “snap” the jaw back into place.
    • Jaw pain also results in difficulty chewing, as well as clicking or locking of the jaw.
    • TMJ can result in pain that radiates throughout the entire jaw region, as well as the head and even the neck.

Treating TMJ Conditions

TMJ is can be treated by a medical professional. This includes dentists, along with oral surgeons and orthodontists. Patients experiencing locking jaw syndrome will have scans, imaging and x-rays taken of the mandibular jaw region. This helps dentists and other medical professional determine if TMJ – or other oral issues are present. Most cases of TMJ, however, are self-diagnosable and are discussed by patients with their physicians.

In most cases, lab tests or imaging are not required. However, this is up to your medical professional and how he or she wants to treat the issue at hand. TMJ usually resolves within a few months and therefore is considered a medium-term ailment. Common treatments for TMJ include pain-relief medications, along with wearing mouth guards and bite guards. Some physical therapy and repositioning the jaw may be needed to restore proper function and performance.