The temporomandibular joint is formed by a set of anatomical structures. It allows the mandible to perform movements applied to the masticatory function (opening and closing, protrusion, retrusion, laterality).
There are two temporomandibular joints: one on each side of the mandible and one at the level of the ear. This is a double joint (bicondylar), and it is the most complex joint we have.
Many TMJ problems are caused by the effects of physical stress or teeth grinding and, in the vast majority of cases, TMJ disorders are related to poor dental function (malocclusion).
Poor posture can also be an important factor in TMJ symptoms. For example, keeping the head forward all day while looking at a screen strains the muscles of the face and neck.
In short, any functional or pathological disorder in any of the 2 joints is capable of altering the integrity of the joints and thus, generating problems such as dislocation, blockages, joint noises when opening and closing the mouth, etc.
Consequences of TMJ Dysfunction
Temporomandibular joint pathologies can cause contracture and muscular tension in the cheeks, neck contractures, jaw blockage, etc. Many times, in addition, it can also be the trigger for headaches, earaches and toothaches.
Difficulty or discomfort when biting or chewing is another manifestation of TMJ disorders.
Treatment for TMJ
Diagnosis by a specialist in occlusion and TMJ is fundamental. Seeing an orthodontist or a specialist in Oral Rehabilitation is the most appropriate. Many times this professional will make a request for an electromagnetic resonance of both TMJ in closed mouth and maximum opening to see the structures and damage of the joint, in addition to other diagnostic tests.
Many patients go to the maxillofacial surgeon or neurologist because of pain symptoms, but it is really necessary to have a specialist to evaluate the occlusion, and this field always corresponds to the Odonto-Estomatologist.
It is essential to improve the pain symptomatology, therefore the appropriate medication is anti-inflammatory and analgesics.
Heat and massage by a physiotherapist specializing in TMJ are also appropriate.
On the other hand, a proper deprogramming with a monthly balanced and adjusted unloading splint allows to improve symptoms and is the key to achieve quality of life in most cases.
After deprogramming and having improved pain symptoms and achieved muscle relaxation, an adequate orthodontic treatment will be planned in most cases, starting from the centric relation to improve and correct the malocclusion, which is undoubtedly one of the direct causes of TMJ problems.