“TMJ”, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder [tem-puh-roh-man-dib-yuh-ler] is a pain or dysfunction of the hinging joints of the jaw. TMJ is a common acronym used to label this joint related problem involving the TMJ and the muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and other tissues.
TMJ can result in abnormal wear patterns of the in the teeth. Over time, dental damage will usually occur. TMJ is the leading cause of tooth enamel damage and a significant cause of tooth loss and gum recession. People with TMJ may also grind their back teeth, which will wear down the cusps of the occlusal surface. TMJ can be loud enough to wake a sleeping partner. Some individuals will clench the jaw without significant lateral movements. Teeth hollowed by previous decay or dental drilling, may collapse, as the cyclic pressure exerted by TMJ is extremely taxing on the tooth structure.
TMJ is often associated with Bruxism, a condition where one grinds and/or clenches their teeth. “Bruxers” is a name given to people who suffer from Bruxism. Bruxers may have habits of biting their fingernails, pencils, or chewing the inside of their cheek. Most teeth grinding and damage occurs during sleep. Most Bruxers become aware of the problem only after the signs of damage are noticed.
More than 15% percent of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain. Bruxism is a major cause of tooth enamel damage and a contributor to tooth loss and gum recession. Untreated, Bruxism results in damage to the teeth and causes TMJ. Eventually, the teeth being ground become shortened and blunt, the TMJs are also being damaged. The results for many are the myofascial muscle pains and headaches caused by TMJ disorder.
TMJ Patients may present with a variety of symptoms, including:
- Stress or Tension
- Eating Disorders
- Jaw Pain
Eventually, TMJ shortens and blunts the teeth being ground, and may lead to myofacial muscle pain and headaches. In severe, chronic cases, it can lead to arthritis of the temporomandibular joints. The jaw clenching that often accompanies TMJ can be an unconscious neuromuscular daytime activity, which should be treated as well.