The two temporomandibular joints in front of your ears connect the jawbone to the skull. The joints move like a hinge so you can open and close your mouth, while also sliding so the jaw can move side to side. This combination of motions lets you chew, talk, and yawn. It also makes the temporomandibular joints some of the most complex joints in the body.
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) occurs when you have pain and dysfunction in the joints or in the muscles controlling them. TMJ falls into three categories:
People can have one or more of these conditions at the same time. For some, the symptoms improve or disappear in weeks or months. For others, TMJ turns into a long-term condition with debilitating pain.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have TMJ:
Grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep can cause TMJ. Another possible cause is trauma, like a blow to the head. The temporomandibular joint has shock-absorbing disks at the end of each bone. If the disks deteriorate or become dislodged, it would cause TMJ. In older adults, the cause may be arthritis in the temporomandibular joint.
The most common and effective treatment for TMJ is a plastic dental night guard that fits over the upper or lower teeth. The night guard stops the teeth from grinding and keeps the jaw from clenching while you sleep. Dr. Brayman makes NTI-type night guards, which were originally developed to prevent migraine pain, but also help relieve TMJ. The NTI only covers your front teeth, which makes it more comfortable than night guards that cover all the teeth. The NTI is also just as effective as the full guard and it can be completed in one appointment.
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