More than fifteen percent of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain.
Some common symptoms include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth, or even headaches and neck aches.
Two joints and several jaw muscles make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow. These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJ's.
The TM joint is one of the most complex joints in the body. Located on each side of the head, these joints work together and can make many different movements, including a combination of rotating and translocational (gliding) action, used when chewing and speaking.
Several muscles help open and close the mouth. They control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward, and side-to-side. Both TM joints are involved in these movements. Each TM joint has a disc between the ball and socket (see diagram). The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and perform rotating and translocational movements. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.
There are several ways the TMJ disorders may be treated. Your dentist will recommend what type of treatment is needed for your particular problem or recommend that you be referred to a specialist. Treatment may involve a series of steps. The step-by-step plan is in your best interest because only minor, relatively non-invasive treatment may be needed.