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TMJ Disorders

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What is the temporomandibular joint?

The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw, called the mandible, to the bone at the side of the head—the temporal bone. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joints. Because these joints are flexible, the jaw can move smoothly up and down and side to side, enabling us to talk, chew and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control its position and movement.

When we open our mouths, the rounded ends of the lower jaw, called condyles, glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. The condyles slide back to their original position when we close our mouths. To keep this motion smooth, a soft disc lies between the condyle and the temporal bone. This disc absorbs shocks to the jaw joint from chewing and other movements.

The temporomandibular joint is different from the body’s other joints. The combination of hinge and sliding motions makes this joint among the most complicated in the body. Also, the tissues that make up the temporomandibular joint differ from other load-bearing joints, like the knee or hip. Because of its complex movement and unique makeup, the jaw joint and its controlling muscles can pose a tremendous challenge to both patients and health care providers when problems arise.


Deciding on the right treatment

Temporomandibular dysfunction includes a wide range of disorders that often overlap. They include:

  • Muscle problems that affect jaw movement
  • Pain in the face around the jaw joint
  • Problems within the joint itself
This variety makes diagnosis and treatment challenging. An accurate diagnosis is critical for successful treatment. For instance, patients with a muscle problem that is causing pain will most likely not benefit from surgery on the temporomandibular joint.

Most problems, whether muscular or within the joint, get better over time. For this reason, most experts agree that it's best to use conservative treatment at first. But in some instances, surgery or other procedures, such as injections, may be recommended as a first treatment.

Most people with TMJ disorders have temporary symptoms that are not serious and do not get worse. They usually can get better with simple treatments done with your Bellingham dentists.

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The staff and Dr's are very friendly and ensure your comfortable. They make sure all your questions are answered. April at the front desk is always there to meet you when you walk in with a smile on her face and ready to check you in our answer any questions you may have.

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