Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Day 107 - Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

“Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ, TMJD or TMD) affects the temporomandibular joint, an area that includes the hinge jaw joint (the bridge for the lower jaw or mandible) and the temporal bone of the skull located in front of each ear, the muscles surrounding the jaw and the jaw itself.

The most common factor contributing to TMJ is a bite problem affecting the joint itself. Interferences in the structure of individual teeth may force displacement of the lower jaw, leading the muscles to position the joints out of their sockets to force the upper and lower teeth to fit together. Anatomical factors within the joint or surrounding muscles (such as the presence of scar tissue) may also interfere with the bite and cause TMJ disorder.

People with TMJ may experience severe pain and discomfort in the face, jaw joint, neck and shoulders. You may also experience swelling on the side of the face, toothaches, headaches, neck aches, earaches and hearing problems.

The pain and discomfort caused by TMJ disorder may be severe, can be either intermittent or constant and may last for many years.”*


My mother is convinced my headache is related to TMJ. TMJ symptoms are often mistaken for migraine headache, sinus trouble, ear infection, or toothache.

During the dental consultation, the dentist evaluated the possibility of having TMJ through electrical nerve stimulation. She placed some adhesive pads over my jaw joint which transfered data to a computer monitor via a tracking devise. For 45 minutes an electric-shock like pain was produced, stimulating my facial muscles and causing my jaw to jolt.

The hyperactivity of the face and of my jaw muscles was recorded to determine whether or not the jaw is in a strained position.

The entire test lasted a grand three hours. I explained that I do not grind my teeth at night, and do not have difficulty when chewing.

At the end of the consultation, the dentist determined that no structural disorder exists. Despite this, she prescribed a mouth guard to reduce the possible effects of tooth grinding and clenching.

She explained that the appliance would also possibly help improve my bite and the ability for the lower jaw to fall properly into the temporomandibular joint socket.

Following the appointment, it seems evident that my jaw is not causing the problem, but I have nothing to lose by wearing the guard at night. I might as well give it a go.

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