TMJ, or Temporomandibular joint disorder to give it its full name, is a condition affecting the joint of the jawbone and skull on both sides that can be the cause of great pain but about which very little is known. For many years it was though that TMJ was caused by stress or other mental anxiety disorder. This may be part of the reason for TMJ but current explanations are leaning more and more to dental problems being the underlying cause.
It is now believed that interruptions in bite (the way the top and bottom teeth sit together) can cause disruption to the joint and associated muscles, which can eventually become very painful. Bite can be interrupted when teeth change position in the mouth as a result of tooth loss or other dental trauma. This can alter the way the top and bottom jaw align causing the joint to rest in an unnatural position. Over time this can cause stress to the joint and muscles, leading to pain.
It is believed that about one in ten people in the UK will have some form of TMJ in their life although the majority will never have it diagnosed. Diagnosing TMJ is notoriously difficult and it is often the last avenue to be explored because of the wide range of symptoms it can cause. TMJ can cause pain in the face, neck, head and even shoulders which makes it very difficult to locate the exact cause. Dentists can test for TMJ using the clench test, which involves keeping the mouth firmly shut to examine for pain. Further tests involve construction elaborate jaw reconstructions to test for misalignment.
TMJ can be treated with over the counter pain relief and also with specially constructed dental appliances to be worn at night to prevent further misalignment. If you are suffering with an unexplained pain in the head or neck, make an appointment with a Kingston upon Thames dentist and ask about TMJ.