People experiencing jaw pain often assume they have a TMJ disorder. The temporomandibular joints, abbreviated as TMJ, make it possible to open and close your mouth. The TMJ, located on either side of your skull, work together when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone. They also control the lower jaw, called the mandible, as it moves forward, backward and side to side.
Because the TMJ system is so complicated, there are often misconceptions about TMJ disorders and how they are diagnosed and treated. Dr. Pamela Cain is a dentist in Knoxville, TN with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of complex dental concerns. She can help you achieve a smile that is comfortable and looks as great as it feels.
Symptoms and Causes of TMJ Disorders
A TMJ disorder is not something that can be diagnosed quickly. There are several possible causes for TMJ, and multiple treatment options, so diagnosing TMJ requires detailed imaging, especially MRI and CT scans. Common symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- Chronic ear, mouth, or jaw pain
- Cracking or popping sensation in the jaw
- Difficulty chewing
- Headache, muscle tension, or muscle spasms
You’ll notice that these symptoms are common to other health problems, too. This is part of why TMJ is so difficult to diagnose correctly.
So what causes TMJ? The TMJ system is strong, but it can also become inflamed or damaged. Possible TMJ disorder causes are:
- Chronic bruxism, or tooth grinding
- Jaw or mouth injury
- Prolonged muscle strain
- Genetic or environmental factors
Misconceptions About Diagnosing TMJ
TMJ diagnosis requires MRI and CT scans to get a clear picture of the TMJ system and surrounding tissue and bone. It is not visible to the naked eye, so while you may have an array of TMJ symptoms, your dentist won’t be able to diagnose it on the first visit.
Treatment depends on the imaging results. Once the images are taken and are read by a reputable imaging center, your dentist can diagnose and set a plan in motion. If the imaging reveals TMJ, it’s important to remember that your treatment may take some time to take effect. There is no one solution to TMJ disorders. Your dentist will help you manage discomfort as much as possible during the diagnostic process and help you find pain relief until a formal diagnosis is made.
TMJ Diagnosis and Treatment in Knoxville, TN
Every patient is different, and TMJ is not a simple diagnosis to make. Dr. Cain has many years of experience helping patients find pain relief and understand their oral health. Request an appointment online if you suspect a TMJ disorder or have questions about your oral health.