What is TMJ/ TMD?
TMJ refers to the joint that attaches the lower jaw or mandible to the temporal bone of the head (skull). Therefore, these joints (right and left) are referred to as the temporomandibular joints. The joints, however, are not the only issue. In many cases, the muscles that work the jaw are also involved. Often they are the more painful part of the problem. The combination of the TMJ joints and muscles is referred to as a temporomandibular disorder. Popping or clicking in the joint is due to the cartilage disc in the joint being displaced (partially out of place). This is a result of the ligamnets that hold the disc in place becoming stretched or torn. Sometimes the displaced disc becomes dislocated (completely out of place) and the opening of the jaw may be limited. This is referred to as a closed lock.
What causes TMD?
TMD is the result of trauma or long-term wear. An accident causing immediate trauma can occur, but more often TMD is the result of minor trauma over an extended period of time. One of the major causes is the occlusion, the way that the teeth meet. If they do not meet evenly, it may trigger clenching or grinding of the teeth. Stress will add to these actions. This may then cause damage to the joints. Much of the pain may come from the chewing muscles that become overworked and painful. Most headaches in the temples come from this.
How is TMD treated?
There are several ways TMD can be treated. Some are successful and others not so much. Modalities include: drugs and psychological counseling, botox injections, muscle stimulation (TENS), chiropractor adjustment, and acupuncture to name a few. The above methods deal with symptoms only, and not the underlying causes. Dr. Hyatt has been treating TMD for 30+ years. He uses a technique of positioning the jaw to allow the joint (discs) to heal and the teeth to meet evenly. This allows the muscles to relax. This method treats not only the symptoms, but also the underlying causes. It is successful about 90% of the time. Surgery is needed possibly 5% of the time and is a last resort. Treatment is not instantaneous, but usually extended over several months.