The temporomandibular joint is a synovial joint i.e. connect bones and allow movement. The bony components of the joint are the temporal bone and condyle (the round upper end of the lower jaw). The bony surfaces are covered by cartilage. The TM joint is lubricated and nourished by synovial fluid. The bony surfaces are separated by a disc made of cartilage called as meniscus. This disc acts as a cushion to absorb stress and allows smooth movement of the condyle while opening and closing the mouth.
TMJ disorders are a collection of conditions that are associated with pain or discomfort of the joint or its neighboring tissues, debilitating the movements of the lower jaw with or without clicking in the joint during function. This is rather commonly seen with adults and stress is reported to be a widespread precipitating factor.
Jaw joint disorders may be due to various causes like diseases e.g. arthritis, injury to the joint or habits like clenching or grinding teeth. Improper alignment of teeth or jaws may also lead to TMJ problems. Stress and emotional trauma may also be a major cause.
TMJ disorders can be manifested by a number of problems including
- pain in the joint or in the jaw muscles, jaw pain, pain while chewing, biting, talking or yawning
- difficulty in opening or closing the mouth
- lock jaw
- clicking sound in the joint
- pain in the neck, dizziness, earache or headache
- Medications to relieve pain or relax the muscles
- Resting the jaw joint by eating soft food and not using chewing gum, avoiding opening the mouth and yawning too widely.
- Correcting the bite, teeth and jaw alignment
- Relaxation and stress-reducing therapies
- Splints or ‘bite guards’ to cover the teeth at night to reduce clenching & grinding
- Physiotherapy treatments and gentle jaw exercises
- Treatment of any underlying causes such as arthritis
Intra-articular injection: Occasionally, a conservative treatment for a painful TM joint may include a joint injection called Intra-Articular injection. Commonly, a corticosteroid is injected into the affected joint to relieve symptoms of TMJ disorders. This treatment option is considered only in selected cases based on the severity of the disease and the patient’s general health conditions.