TMJ is a short way of referring to temporomandibular joint syndrome. It is much more convenient to simply use the initials than the full words. This is especially true in cases where we are discussing medical terms and conditions, where the words can be difficult to remember or pronounce.
The jaw joint is a ball joint. It is here that the temporal bone of the skull connects to the mandible (lower jaw). TMJ is the condition where there is significant pain in this joint. There is a cartilage pad between the two bones.
Headaches are the most common symptom of TMJ. In fact the headaches can me so severe as to be classified as migraines. Occasionally sufferers may have to visit several doctors in search of a proper diagnosis and treatment. A good doctor will consider the possibility of headaches being rooted in a dental disorder.
When you see a doctor for a diagnosis he or she will conduct a number of tests. Usually they will start by moving your jaw in different directions and listening to the sound. Sometimes a wax impression will be made to examine how your teeth come together when you bite. X-rays can also be taken to look at the joint directly and evaluate for any problems.
There is often a noticeable clicking sound made by the joint in sufferers of TMJ. It can be extremely annoying, but otherwise is not serious. If it makes these sounds it is clearly not working properly. Sometimes teeth grinding can lead to these problems as well.
Problems with TMJ can also cause uneven bites. Uneven bites can cause intense headaches, jaw pain or pain that radiates into the ear of the area. These problems make it incredibly uncomfortable to eat and your jaw hurt, even if it is still.
Physical therapy, massage therapy, heat and hypnotism are all possible treatments for TMJ. It also helps to avoid engaging in any movements that exacerbate the pain, such as wide yawning. As stress can be a contributing factor, taking steps to reduce it can be helpful as well. If you find that you are clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth when you sleep then you should talk to your dentist about being fitted for a mouth guard.
The medications usually prescribed include simple pain relievers. Surgery can also be a last step choice to repair or remove the disk in the joint. This is an extreme decision and should only be made after you have tried absolutely everything else.