Despite increasing general awareness, TMJ problems remain severely under diagnosed. Epidemiological studies vary, so exact numbers are difficult to come by, but conservative estimates are that more than 15% of the American adult population suffers from some type of TMJ disorder, and well under half of those with problems are diagnosed and treated.
What is TMJ?
“TMJ” is an acronym that has come to represent disorders of the temporomandibular joints, which are the joints of the jaw. The temporomandibular joints are some of the most complex joints in the body, as they provide both hinge motions and sliding motions. Disorders of the temporomandibular joints are also called TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder).
This illustration offers a simple visual of the location of the problem, and how scar tissue impacts the function of the joint(s):
Signs and Symptoms of TMJ
These are the most universal signs that you have a problem with your temporomandibular joints:
- Jaw locking: Your jaw catches or “locks” when you open it, and you have to wriggle it from side to side to allow it to close. You may notice a loud popping noise when you close your jaw, and this can be quite uncomfortable.
- Clicking when TMJs are in motion: Snapping, popping or clicking when you chew or talk. This occurs when the TMJ has been severely irritated or if there is a displaced disc at one (or both) of the joints.
- Changes in the way your teeth meet when you bite down: You may not think you would notice a change in your bite, but you will. We all unconsciously register what is “normal” when we bite, talk and chew, and you will immediately notice if something is different.
The good news is that less than 5% of people with TMJ disorder require surgery to fix the problem. Dr. Currie has training through the Las Vegas Institute and Spear Education, so he is qualified to help develop the right treatment for your unique situation. Most often, your treatment will involve some combination of stress reduction, a custom bite appliance, physical therapy, biofeedback and medication.