TMJ is not just one disorder, but several disorders that affect the jaw joint and the muscles that control chewing. The pain can be as minor as slight clicking to popping sensations when the mouth is opened or closed, or as serious as chronic pain extending into the face, neck and shoulders. As a rule, discomfort from TMJ is occasional and not permanent, sometimes occurring in cycles. The pain may go away with little or no treatment but not always. Although no one knows for sure how many people have TMJ, the disorders seem to affect more women than men.
At your oral surgeonʼs office, X-rays of your teeth and jaw can help determine if your problem is dental in nature. If it is, procedures can be done to improve the alignment of your bite. This may include the addition of crowns or a reforming of tooth surfaces by your general dentist. If your problem is not dental in nature, your oral surgeon may refer you to an orthodontist, medical doctor, physical therapist or even a mental health professional. Because other types of pain have been known to mimic a TMJ disorder, complete dental and medical exams are important steps in getting an accurate diagnosis.
Early detection is key to eliminating the symptoms of TMJ. Many health care professionals, especially oral surgeons, keep up with the latest research and techniques for alleviating TMJ symptoms. If you suspect you may have TMJ, your first stop should be your oral surgeonʼs office. In most TMJ cases, surgery can be avoided.