The temporomanibular joint is the natural hinge between the jaw and the rest of the skull that allows humans to eat and speak. TMJ disorders can be painful reminders of what can occur when this hinge does not work properly.
TMJ disorders are believed to result from both natural and unnatural factors, including arthritis, an injury, a dislocation of the joint, a misalignment between the jaw and the teeth, or the stress-related grinding of teeth. Several remedies are available, but a proper diagnosis will be needed before any treatment can be initiated. An examination by a dentist should include a check of the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking or stiffness.
Treatment measures proposed by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research include relaxation techniques employing meditation or biofeedback, physical exercise of the jaw, the use of medications and heat packs, and the avoidance of hard foods and chewing gum. Additionally, a night guard may be needed to prevent the grinding of teeth while one is asleep.
Some TMJ disorders may require dental treatment, including the fixing of an uneven bite, or intervention by an orthodontist. It is the dentist who is most qualified to make a diagnosis and recommended the best treatment options.