The temporomandibular joint, more commonly known as the TMJ, is a hinge that connects the lower jaw to the skull; it is what allows your mouth to open and close and move side to side smoothly. It connects just in front of the ear on each side of your head and is attached to muscles that control your mouth’s movement. You can feel these joints working by placing your fingers directly in front of your ears and opening and closing your mouth.
Some patients experience pain in this joint and the surrounding muscles or have difficulty chewing. This condition is called a TMJ disorder and is more common than some may think. You may have a TMJ disorder if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Trouble opening the mouth all of the way
- Pain in the facial muscles, around the ears, or in the jaw joints
- Difficulty biting or chewing foods
- Grating, popping, or clicking sounds when opening and closing the mouth
- Increased headaches, dizziness, hearing loss, ear pain, or ringing in the ears
Although the cause of TMJ disorders is not always clear, it is important for an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to understand how the disorder arose to properly treat the problem. Sometimes the disorder may be a result of multiple causes. Common causes of TMJ disorders include
- Injury to the jaw or muscles in the neck or head
- Excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth
- Displaced or perforated disk in the joint
Dr. Marashi or Dr. Ricciti will develop a treatment plan for your condition based on the specific cause or causes of your disorder. You will receive a thorough oral examination during your initial consultation and may need additional X-rays or a CT scan to pinpoint the functional problem. In some instances, your TMJ disorder may not be severe and can be relieved with self-managed care or non-surgical treatments, such as pain relievers, bite guards, or physical therapy.
If your condition requires surgery, the procedure performed will be based on your specific problem. If you think you may have a TMJ disorder, we implore you to contact one of our offices in Charlotte, NC, Gastonia, NC, or Fort Mill, SC, for a consultation. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are uniquely qualified specialists in the areas of the mouth, teeth, and jaws and are your best option for correctly diagnosing a TMJ disorder.