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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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Deborah Akinola
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Temporomandibular joint disorders otherwise known as the TMJ disorders are disorders that affects the temporomandibular joint. The TMJ joint is a joint that attaches the jaw to the skull. There are two of such joints found in the body; one on either sides of the jaw of the face.

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Once there is an injury or a disorder of any of the TMJ joints, it can cause intense pain and  also affects the muscles found around the jaw. The exact causes of the TMJ disorder is usually difficult to diagnose, however, it can be caused by a combination of a lot of factors.

Factors such as genetics, arthritis or any jaw injury can cause a disorder in your TMJ. For people who have joint pains, it is only natural for them to clench their teeth or bring them as the case may be. This may not be an appropriate method of diagnosis however because there are people who also habitually grind or clench their teeth without having any pains in their jaw.

In most cases, these pains and discomfort derived as a result of the TMJ disorders may be temporary and can be relieved using some methods.

Causes

Normally at the temperomandibular joint, there are a combinations of some movements such as hinge and sliding movements. The cartilage found on the Some parts of the bones that interacts with this joints are separated by a disk that acts as a small shock absorber and also helps in the reduction of friction in this joint hence helping movements to move on smoothly without any discomfort.

However, some factors disturb this naturally occurring movements thereby causing pains. These factors include:

  1. The tendency for the disk to erode or move out of its place of proper alignment
  2. If the joint’s cartilage is seriously damaged by arthritis.
  3. If the joint becomes damage due to the force and impact of an external blow or any external influence.

However, for many people and in many cases, the exact cause of the disorders found at the TMJ is often unknown.

Symptoms

There are so many symptoms to be noticed once a person is having a TMJ disorder and this factor includes:

  1. Tenderness and severe pain within the jaw.
  2. Pain in either one or the two temporomandibular joints.
  3. Difficulty in chewing
  4. Intense pain while chewing.
  5. Aching facial pain
  6. The joint can lock which will make it intensely difficult to talk or chew, open or close the mouth.
  7. Tickling or grating sounds can be heard while chewing.

There are some certain risk factors that are associated with TMJs and hence increase the risk of getting them and they include:

  1. Some types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteo arthritis.
  2. Jaw injury caused by an external force.
  3. Long term chronic pain
  4. Long term grinding or clenching of teeth
  5. Diseases that usually affects the connective tissues that causes problems which can affect the temporomandibular joint.

There are several diagnosis that your doctor may decide for you to undergo. The first includes physical exam. Physical examinations includes:

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  1. The use of an instrument to listen to and feel the jaw when you open and close the mouth.
  2. He would also observe the range of motion of your jaw.
  3. He would also press on several regions around the jaw in order to identify sites of discomfort.

After the initial physical examination, if your doctor or dentist should suspect a problem, he may ask you to go for dental x-rays and probably a CT scan. A CT scan helps to provide a detailed image of the bones involved in the joint. You might also be required to go for an MRI in order to show problems with the disk found around the joint.

To diagnose a TMJ disorder, there will a need for an anthroscopy. A doctor will insert a cannula which is like a small tube inside the joint space likewise an anthroscope which is also a small camera will be inserted. This is done so that the area will be viewed in order to get a proper diagnosis.

Treatment

Some cases of TMJ disorders don’t actually need treatments. They usually get to resolved themselves. However, in a severe case in which your symptoms are persisting, the doctor may recommend some treatment options which you may have to undergo. Some of those treatments include:

1. Medications

Some medications mainly help to relieve pains associated with TMJ disorders and they include:

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs

Getting over-the-counter drugs can really help in relieving this pains. However, some times these drug a may not be enough to relieve the pains. If this be the case, your doctor will prescribe other pain killers stronger than the previous drugs.

Tricyclic antidepressants

These medications includes amitriptyline can be used for the treatment of depression and can also be used for the treatment of pain

Muscle relaxants

These types of drugs are usually used for a few days or some weeks to help reduce the pain caused by disorders from TMJ.

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