TMJ treatments really depend on the source of the TMJ problem. The TMJ, which stands for Temporomandibular Joint, is the joint in the angle of the jaw. This joint is a hinged joint located where the temporal bone of the skull meets the mandible, or lower jaw bone. The characteristic that makes the TMJ a little different than other joints is the disc of cartilage material that cushions the two bones within the joint. This is a synovial joint, meaning it contains sacs with lubricating fluid inside as well as the cushioning cartilage pad known as the articular disc. The disc divides the joint into two, with one synovial sac on either side. The center of the disc does not have significant blood vessels or nerves, and is thinner and denser. The outer portion of the disc on the other hand has significant blood supply and nerve endings. The synovial fluid itself supplies the nutrition for the central portion of the disc, as it is bathed in this fluid.
This information is important because it helps to explain how some of the symptoms of TMJ problems present themselves. When the cartilage disc slips out of place, or age or some other factors cause changes in its surface, the locations of the nerve endings in the tissue make the shift painful, even though normally this movement is pain free despite the disc enduring the friction of normal use each day. The bones of the joint are pressing cartilage tissue that has nerve endings instead of being nerve free. The disc most often moves forward when it displaces. Any shifting or tissue changes can cause pain or problems with the use of the joint.
This gives some basic structural concepts for the Temporomandibular Joint. TMJ treatments, again, require the dentist to know the cause of the displacement, changes in texture, or foreign material in the joint. Sometimes it is possible to figure out a cause based on the patient interview and a thorough physical examination of the face and neck. TMJ disorders can be caused byarthritis, trauma, or alignment problems, sometimes night-time teeth grinding. Sometimes it isn’t obvious at all. In fact, it is not uncommon for the precise cause of the symptoms to go completely unknown. This makes TMJ treatments difficult to plan.
This makes the patient interview very important. Questions about the frequency and duration of symptoms, the nature of pain or clicking sounds, the presence of headaches and toothaches, and items of this nature should be part of the volley of questions a dentist asks. Problems with the jaw locking or difficulty functioning could indicate that more severe TMJ problems are present. Questions about stress are important because often night time teeth grinding behavior is linked with high stress levels. Having all the proper information makes planing TMJ treatments easier.