The temporomandibular joint is more commonly referred to as the TMJ joint. But what exactly is the TMJ? This joint is actually located at the base of the skull right in front of the ear structure. It connects the lower jaw (mandible) with the upper jaw (maxilla). The TMJ is quite unique in its structure unlike most other joints located in the body. It is composed of a rounded protrusion of the mandible that sits against an indentation in the skull, along with a disc-like structure made of a soft bone called cartilage which is found in between the two bones (articular disc).
These three parts of the TMJ are held together by ligaments originating from various parts of the head and neck to support the entire jaw and guide its movements up and down, or rotations and sideways. There are several other muscles that are connected to those ligaments, and many aids in the motion of the lower jaw.
How does it Work?
The TMJ works in two ways to help you open your mouth. The first way is basically like a hinge to open and close the mouth, just like a hinge on a door. The second way is a sliding motion called translation. This is wherein your lower jaw moves forward and downward. This motion helps the TMJ to move backward and forward and from side to side for basic actions such as eating, yawning, some of the most common tasks of the mouth.
What Can Happen to the TMJ?
Like any other joint in the body, the TMJ can be fractured, it can experience swelling and become sore, causing limited movement of the lower jaw and radiating pain to the head and neck area. Although rare, a fracture to the actual articular disc can happen, and it can be displaced, causing severe pain and swelling. Unlike other joints such as knees and hips, arthritis of the TMJ is very rare, and it is difficult to treat with anti-inflammatory drugs only. Nonetheless, pain in the TMJ is often temporary, and can be treated with a combination of home TMJ treatments like ice and then heat to relieve the sore ligaments and muscles.
What If I Need Surgery on my TMJ?
In very few cases, surgery is sometimes required to correct TMJ disorders. A referral to a Westlake dentist or an oral surgeon might be recommended, and special imaging pictures of the joint may need to be taken to determine whether or not surgery should be a part of your TMJ treatment.
How Do I Maintain my TMJ?
Just like keeping your teeth healthy and maintaining good oral hygiene, your TMJ should warrant regular visits to the Westlake dental to prevent complications during a routine dental exam. Don’t forget to carry out proper brushing and the use of fluoridated toothpaste which can help you reverse any wear to the enamel caused by a TMJ condition. AustinDentalCare provides excellent consultations regarding TMJ and treatment options. Schedule an appointment today.