The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is located at the back of the jaw and connects the jawbone to your skull. It’s a ball and socket hinge that allows smooth jaw function, including chewing and speaking.
For most, the jaw can slip back and forth without any issues; however, those who suffer from TMJ disorders experience pain when moving the jaw. TMJ disorders can also lead to increased headaches, shoulder and neck pain.
The impact of TMJ on facial nerves
The TMJ is located behind a major facial nerve that connects throughout the face, head, and neck. When the TMJ is out of alignment, pain can spread throughout the mouth, cheeks, eyes, ears, forehead, tongue, teeth, and throat.
Some of the facial muscles, nerves, and joints that can be impacted by TMJ disorders include:
- The joint that connects the teeth to the jaws
- The muscles that move the jaw
- The muscle that tenses the eardrum
- The muscle that opens and closes the Eustachian tubes
- The lining of the sinuses
When we consider the number of times we move our mouth in a day when eating, talking, yawning, and breathing, we can appreciate how hard the TMJ works for daily function. Pain associated with TMJ disorders can be extremely disruptive to our everyday routine and quality of life.
Causes of TMJ disorders
Most cases of TMJ pain results from an injury to the jaw or face, tooth or jaw misalignment, or grinding or clenching of the teeth. Some people with chronic TMJ dislocation are predisposed to joint anatomy that makes the jaw more likely to slip out of place.
How is TMJ disorder treated?
The concern with untreated TMJ disorders is that it can lead to damaged nerves, tendons, muscles, and cartilage, as well as permanent dislocation. As neuromuscular dentists in Pittsburgh, we aim to diagnose TMJ disorders and recommend effective treatments to reduce further damage.
Safe and effective TMJ treatments in Pittsburgh can include:
- Medication such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants
- Therapies including physical therapy, oral splints, mouth guards, or counselling
- Other procedures such as corticosteroid injections, arthrocentesis, TMJ arthroscopy, or open-joint surgery