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An Overview of TMJ
TMJ is an acronym that refers to the temporomandibular joint. This is the joint where the lower jaw, or the mandible, attaches to the temporal bone of the skull. TMJ disorders occur when this joint becomes misaligned. They can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, which must be diagnosed to determine the best course of treatment.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
Temporomandibular joint disorder, also called TMD, has a wide range of symptoms. Because the symptoms are so varied, it is important to get a definitive diagnosis. Many symptoms of TMD can also indicate other problems, some of which can be very serious. Before being treated for TMD, you should be sure your symptoms do not indicate another problem.
Some symptoms that can be related to TMD include:
- Persistent headaches
- Clicking in the ear or jaw
- Aching in the jaw
- Discomfort in the neck, shoulders, or upper back
The symptoms are so varied because TMD can affect various nerves that serve the face and head, and can create tension that affects the jaw, shoulders, or back.
Treatment for TMJ Disorders
Treatment for your TMD depends upon its root cause. Misalignment of the joint can occur for several reasons, including overall tension and stress, malocclusion, or teeth grinding and clenching. Conversely, TMD can cause tension and stress as well as teeth grinding and clenching. Treatment, then, focuses on reducing stress, correcting malocclusion, or reducing habitual grinding. Some habits can increase TMD symptoms, such as chewing gum, so if this seems to make your discomfort worse, you should avoid it.
One common treatment for TMD is a mouth guards. Mouth guards help reduce the damage caused by grinding, and can be designed to keep the jaw in proper alignment, especially at night. Reducing tension and stress through meditation or other stress-relief exercises can also help. In other cases, orthodontic work might be required, or, in very serious cases, surgery is used to correct the alignment of the jawbone.
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