Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ) Description
The temporomandibular joint is a hinge of cartilage between the jawbone and the skull which is powered by the muscles that guide chewing and speech mechanics. There is one joint on each side of the head just in front of the ear.
It is believed that people who clench or grind their teeth in sleep are more susceptible to TMJ and natural wear and tear on the joint is also an issue.
It can cause localized pain and have a detrimental impact on quality of life.
Patients typically experience a pain in the jaw that spreads to the cheek and ear. It can also cause the jaw to feel tight, making it difficult to open the mouth fully and eat properly.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ) Treatment
Lifestyle changes can lessen the pressure on the joint and allow it to recover and a steroid injection can be used to reduce the swelling and pain in the soft tissue surrounding the joint.
The joint can be washed out with sterile fluid to help it return to its normal position and function in a procedure called an arthrocentesis which normally takes place under a general anaesthetic.
The joint can be completely replaced with a prosthetic disc but this is rare and usually employed when the patient has suffered trauma or degenerative arthritis which severely impairs jaw movement.