What is T.M.J.?

TMJ is an abbreviation for the Temporomandibular joint which is a hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, located in front of the ear on each side of the head.  Between these two bones is a thin cartilaginous disc which acts to cushion the bones when the muscles open and close the lower jaw during chewing, talking or swallowing.  When the lower jaw is centered in its most stable position, the muscles are relaxed and all of the teeth will come together at the same time.  This harmony allows the joints, muscles and teeth to be protected during the chewing function

TMD is an abbreviation for Temporomandibular disorder which occurs as a result of problems with either the jaw joint, the patient’s bite, and/or the surrounding facial muscles that control the movement and/or position of the jaw. When the chewing system is out of balance, caused either by a misaligned bite, trauma, dental work, or artificial tooth movement (orthodontic treatment), the joints must be pulled by the muscles away from their ideal, stable position to make the teeth fit together.

TMJ Disorders

Causes may include:

  • occlusal disease – occlusal disease (also known as malocclusion)  is a misaligned bite that, if undetected and untreated, can damage your teeth, the supporting bone and gums surrounding the teeth, the temporomandibular joints (TMJ’s) and the muscles of the head and neck.

Occlusal disease is often overlooked, and is often dismissed as natural aging or wearing of the teeth.  In reality, occlusal disease is an unbalanced bite that at best can wear and damage your teeth and at worst, contribute to eventual tooth loss and/or debilitation temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

Other causes include:

  • injury to the jaw joint
  • injury to the muscles of the head or neck
  • osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the Temporomandibular joint

People who suffer from symptoms of TMD may experience varying levels of pain and discomfort which can be temporary or last a lifetime.

Common symptoms include:

  • headaches and migraines
  • ear aches
  • ringing in the ears
  • jaw soreness or pain
  • painful facial or neck muscles
  • upper back or shoulder pain
  • clenching of the teeth
  • grinding of the teeth
  • worn, chipped, cracked or broken teeth and dental work
  • limited ability to open the mouth wide
  • getting stuck or locking in the open or closed mouth position
  • difficulty or pain while chewing
  • clicking, popping, or grating of the jaw joint
  • loose teeth or receding gum and bone
  • shifting bite

Teeth are mainly affected by three diseases:  decay (cavities), periodontal (gum) disease and occlusal (bite) disease.  The first two are most commonly treated, yet the treatment of occlusal disease is equally important but rarely understood or treated.  Loose teeth, sore muscles, painful jaw joints and headaches are all effects of occlusal disease.  TMJ disorders fall under the category of occlusal disease.

When your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are in a comfortable relaxed position, your muscles are relaxed, and all of your teeth should touch simultaneously.  When you bite down firmly from this relaxed position, there should be no “shifting” of either the jaw or individual teeth.  If there is an incorrect bite, undue stress can be introduced to the temporomandibular joints, the teeth and muscles.  The muscles work extra hard for the jaw to find an “accommodation” position and can become tense and painful.  This can lead to many of the previously listed symptoms which is why early detection and treatment are so important.

As a trained Bioesthetic dentist, Dr. Dornin will diagnose the underlying causes of TMD, and set up a treatment plan to restore harmony to the chewing system by correcting the causes of tooth wear, joint imbalance and muscle pain, rather than just treating the symptoms.