Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

The temporomandibular joint, located at the sides of the face is one of the most complex of the body. In the event of dysfunction or disturbance of this joint, there are troublesome symptoms that usually result in jaw crunches and pain. Focus on the causes, symptoms and means of preventing temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

What is the temporomandibular joint?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) refers to the joint located directly in front of the ear in the area where the glenoid cavity is connected to the lower jaw. We have an ATM on each side of the face.

Temporomandibular joints, like all other joints in the body, are protected by cartilage. It is a disc called meniscus which has the purpose of preventing the friction of the bones and facilitates the mobility of ATM during mastication. The latter move forward, backward, on both sides and also make opening and closing movements.

When there is a lack of coordination between the ATMs, the meniscus can be damaged or displaced, which will hamper the proper functioning of these joints and cause malfunctions.

What are the temporomandibular joint disorders?

In some cases, the temporomandibular joints may be prone to disorders and dysfunctions, which cause very troublesome symptoms. The latter generally manifest themselves by:
  • Cracking, clicking or crackling when opening the mouth
  • Discomfort during chewing
  • A blockage of the jaw
  • Pain in the jaw muscles

The signs above are the most frequent, but others may also appear, namely:
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Tinnitus
  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Nocturnal grinding of teeth (bruxism)
In general, pain occurs on only one side of the face. They are more frequent in the morning on waking and are accentuated after or during a period of stress.

Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders?

Temporomandibular joint disorders usually occur in people between the ages of 20 and 50 and can affect both sexes. In reality, 1 in 2 adults suffer from ATM dysfunction, but they do not consult all.

ATM disorders are mainly caused by a problem of coordination of the movements of the two temporomandibular joints, which can cause displacement of the disc (meniscus) and consequent problems. But not that, these disorders can also be caused by:
  • A dental malocclusion: the teeth are misplaced and come into contact several times a day which can cause a deviation of the jaw
  • The loss of one or more teeth, which will affect the joints
  • Tooth sealing too high
  • Injury or trauma, which can damage the meniscus
  • Regular tightening of muscles or teeth leads to muscle spasms causing pain
Other factors may also contribute to the onset of ATM disorders, namely:
  • Arthritis
  • Chewing gum often
  • The stress
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Sleep Disorders
Diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders:

Persons with any or all of the above symptoms should consult a physician or dentist to determine the source. To make the diagnosis, the latter will examine the jaw as well as the face, especially the area where ATM and chewing muscles are located.

However, the reference methods for diagnosing an ATM disorder remain X-ray, CT or MRI, which highlight any abnormalities.

Many people with this disorder heal without treatment, while others have to follow specific treatments to relieve symptoms.

Treatments vary and depend mainly on the cause of the disorder and the intensity of the symptoms. A distinction is made between functional treatments, which involve wearing a nocturnal gutter or taking analgesics, and surgical treatments, usually undertaken in specific cases or when the functional treatments have not yielded results.

How to prevent Temporomandibular Joint Disorders?

Here are some tips to prevent ATM disorders:
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Try to alternate both sides while sleeping
  • Wearing dental protection during sports activities
  • Limit the consumption of foods too hard and firm and opt for those with a softer consistency
  • Do not open your mouth wide by yawning
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