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Temporomandibular joint disorder, often referred to as TMD or TMJ, is a disorder of the jaw, jaw joint and connecting muscles and tissues. The syndrome affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint on either side of the head that connects the lower jaw to the skull, which is vitally important for everyday activities like chewing, speaking, yawning, and more. Symptoms of TMJ The TMJ joint is very complex. In addition to muscles in the jaw, face, and neck, it also involves the bones and cartilage of the joint, as well as numerous blood vessels, nerves, and ligaments. As a result, sufferers of TMD can experience vastly different symptoms, some of which can be confused with earache, neck injury, or other kinds of body strain. People suffering from TMD may experience: Headache or migraines Stiffness or popping in the TMJ joint A clicking or grinding noise in the TMJ joint when the jaw is moved Limited mobility in the joint, causing difficulty opening or closing the mouth Difficulty biting or chewing Wear or damage to teeth Pain in the facial muscles, shoulders, and neck Earache, ringing in the ears, or hearing loss Pain or tenderness in and around the jaw itself If problems continue without appropriate TMJ treatment, these symptoms can progress to include chronic headaches and face pain. Causes of TMD There are several common triggers for the TMJ disorder, including: Misalignment in the bite Orthodontic appliances, such as braces Stress and emotional tension Gum chewing or nail biting Chewing on objects like pens or pencils Fractures, dislocations, or other injuries Teeth grinding or clenching the jaw Systemic diseases; gout, lupus, and fibromyalgia Sleep disturbances like sleep apnea Extensive dental procedures causing stress on the joints Arthritis

Although any of these issues can cause TMJ problems, there isn't always a direct correlation. Some people can have a misalignment of their bite or have high stress levels for years without developing TMJ syndrome, while others suffer from it without dramatic correlation of these triggers. TMJ Treatment Depending on the cause of the problem, there are a number of TMJ treatment options available, ranging from lifestyle changes that can prevent the disorder to specific dental therapies. For very extreme cases, surgery may be necessary. Relaxation and physical exercise: The first and most common TMJ treatment is relaxation and physical exercise, which can help people deal with stress more effectively. This often lessens the frequency and impact of clenching and grinding of the teeth that contributes to a majority of TMJ cases. Eating soft foods, using anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and treating the area with heating pads or warm compresses can also be a helpful temporary solution. Correcting tooth and bite alignment: If symptoms persist, a specifically designed bite splint, or bite leveling orthotic, is often the best initial therapy to improve jaw function and decrease symptoms. Adjustment to the teeth or the bite alignment is sometimes required to correct the problem that initially contributed to the TMJ disorder. Repair to the teeth may also be necessary if there has been wear or grinding on the chewing surfaces. Examples can include the use of dental crowns or veneers to correct the levelness of the bite and restore worn-down teeth. Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be required to repair a deteriorating jaw bone (when the cause is osteoarthritis) or correct trauma from an accident that might have misaligned the jaw or injured the facial muscles. Less than five percent of patients need surgery to correct their TMJ disorder. To find the best treatment approach for TMJ, it's a good idea to see a reputable TMJ dentist who has extensive training and experience in treating TMJ disorders. A highly qualified dentist can help to identify the root of the problem and choose a treatment plan that's conducive to your lifestyle, budget, and desired results. Make sure the dentist you select takes the time to listen to you about your lifestyle and symptoms. Collaboration with your dentist is necessary to diagnose and implement a plan for an ideal treatment outcome.

Dr. Mark Kleive is a TMJ Dentist in Minneapolis and has been named Top Minnesota Dentist for the third consecutive year. He will handle any dental problem you're suffering to give you back your smile. Please visit for more information and details.

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TMJ Causes and Treatment.  

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