The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a bilateral hinge that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull that are located in front of each ear. The TMJ, the only joint in the skull, allows you to move your jaw up and down and side to side. This joint enables us to talk and chew. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) can occur as a normal part of aging, but it can also develop secondary to an injury, such as a motor vehicle accident, a fall involving your head, or a traumatic sports injury to the head. Dysfunction can also arise from a misaligned bite, from grinding your teeth at night or from clenching during the day. If you hear popping or clicking sounds when moving your jaw, a dentist with training and experience in TMJ disorders can help alleviate a host of problems arising from this condition.
A TMJ diagnosis is not a simple one, since its symptoms are shared with other conditions. Symptoms can vary from ringing in the ear, ear pain, facial pain, to tension headaches. Many patients present with their jaw locked, and can only open half of a full opening. As anyone with TMJ can attest, this condition has profound implications on the quality of one’s life. Although there are a variety of causes of TMJ, the result tends to be the same: pain to the face, head, jaw or neck, headaches, toothaches, earaches, upper shoulder pain, dizziness, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The discomfort caused by TMJ disorders is often debilitating. A TMJ sufferer will often have to deal with chronic pain so intense that it can make one miss work, or miss out on life and the joy of eating. Only a dentist who appreciates the seriousness of the condition, has vast experience and secondary training, and has the team resources in place from a variety of disciplines will be able to properly diagnose and treat it.
Arthritis as a cause of TMJ is especially important with seniors who are affected by this condition. Two arthritic changes can cause TMJ dysfunction. Osteoarthritis, which is usually found in more aged bones that are degenerating, is a common cause of joint pain. However, although we don’t often think of osteoarthritis as affecting the jaw (the temporomandibular joint), it can and does. A second cause can be Rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic, systemic, autoimmune inflammatory condition characterized by joint inflammation. It affects people of any age, including children, and usually affects women more than men. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation around the TMJ joint, which restricts movement of the joint, resulting in severe pain.
With over thirty years of experience in treating TMD patients, Dr. Wagner and her staff are uniquely qualified to treat this disorder. She has developed relationships with diagnostic imaging such as an MRI or cone beam scanning, and routinely works with oral surgeons should a minimally invasive procedure be needed either for further diagnosis or treatment. Whatever brings you and your TMJ symptoms to our office, you can rest assured that you will receive a comprehensive examination, diagnosis, and a full treatment plan