What Is TMJ And Do I Have It?

TMJ is an abbreviation for the Temporomandibular Joint or the jaw joint, which opens and closes our mouths. The term TMJ has been used to describe problems with the jaw joints, leading to pain, difficulty in chewing, headaches, dizziness, tinnitus (ear ringing), as well as a myriad of other symptoms.

The joint is affected by trauma and disease. Trauma to the joint is of two types, macro-trauma or micro-trauma. Macro-trauma is due to a hard blow to the joint from a fall or accident. Micro-trauma is constant repetitive overloading of the joint usually due to grinding or clenching the teeth. Diseases affecting the joint include rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis), gout, lyme disease, as well as others. The joint is also affected by tumors, cysts and birth malformations.

Accurate diagnosis is important when treating patients with jaw joint pain. Usually treatment is required when people have pain emanating from the jaw joint, just anterior to the ear, or difficulty with opening their mouth or chewing. Many people have jaw joints which make noises when they open or close their mouths. Joint sounds alone, may not require treatment.