Occlusion and TMJ Disorders
Occlusion and TMJ Disorders

Temporomandibular joint disorders are problems affecting the jaw joint - usually pain or reduced movement of the joint. There are various causes but generally it is not a serious condition and often improves with simple treatments.

TMJ disorders are problems which affect the jaw joint.

The jaw joint is located just in front of the ear, and it joins the jaw bone (mandible) to the skull near to the temple. The jaw joint is also called the 'temporomandibular joint'. Problems affecting this joint are usually known as TMJ disorders. However, there are various other medical terms for this condition - for example, TMJ dysfunction, TMJ pain and myofascial pain disorder.


  • Pain in the joint area or nearby. The pain is usually located just in front of the ear and it may spread to the cheek, the ear itself and the temple.
  • Jaw movements may be reduced. This may be a general tight feeling or a sensation of the jaw getting stuck. Very rarely, the jaw may become 'locked', causing difficulty in opening or closing the mouth.
  • Clicks or noises can sometimes be heard coming from the jaw joint when you chew or move your mouth. These noises can be normal, so they are only relevant if you have other symptoms in the joint, such as pain or reduced movement.
  • Because the ear is very close to the jaw joint, some people develop ear symptoms such as:
    • Noise in the ear.
    • Sensitivity to sound.
    • Dizziness (vertigo).

In general, TMJ disorders are thought to have a 'multifactorial' cause, meaning that there are usually a number of factors contributing to the cause. These factors can be grouped into two types:

  • Problems linked to the muscles working the joint.
  • Problems inside the joint itself.

The muscle problems are the most common type, particularly for younger people.

Problems with the muscles may be caused by:

  • Tension of the jaw muscles. This can occur if you clench your jaw a lot during sleep, which is quite common. People also clench their jaw during the day if they are feeling tense or anxious.
  • Overuse of the jaw muscles, such as habitually chewing gum, or biting nails.

Most problems in the jaw joint can be helped with simple treatments such as painkillers and advice on how to rest the joint. There are various treatments which are often used in combination:

Resting the jaw joint

  • At rest, try to keep your teeth slightly apart and your tongue resting in the bottom of your mouth.
  • You can rest the joint by eating soft food and not using chewing gum.
  • Also, avoid opening the mouth very wide - so don't do too much singing and try not to yawn too widely.

Medication

Painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or codeine can help. If these are not enough,muscle relaxants or a small dose of a medicine called a tricyclic antidepressant can give added pain relief.

Occlusal Splint
Dental splint (occlusal splint or stabilization splint or bite guard), which is a dental appliance placed in the mouth that keeps the teeth in alignment and prevents tooth grinding. This resembles a mouth guard and is usually prescribed and fitted by a jaw specialist.


Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy treatments, such as ultrasound and gentle jaw exercises,  can strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and range of motion.

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