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What Is TMJ?

Do the muscles in your face feel tired? Does your jaw feel sore when you bite down or chew? Do you hear a popping, clicking, or grinding sound when you open your mouth, when you speak, or when you chew? Does one or both of your ears ache? Then you just might be suffering from what is commonly referred to as TMJ.

TMJ is an abbreviation for Temporomandibular joint. This joint is located just in front of both of your ears and connects your bottom jaw with your skull. The TMJ is a hinge joint that allows you to open and close your mouth, speak, and chew.

Much like your knee joint, the TMJ is divided into two parts by a disc. The disc serves as a buffer between the jaw bone and the skull. It is strong, yet flexible, and keeps the joint balanced. The joint is also made up of muscle, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, and other tissues.

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    • Pain
      The discomfort and pain can be in the joint, ear, face, and even the neck and shoulders.
    • Locking of the Jaw
      The jaw becomes locked when opened or closed.
    • Limited jaw movement
      A person is limited on how far they can open their mouth.
    • Difficulty chewing
      Chewing can be painful and/or a person feels as though they can’t bite hard on their food as they once did.
    • Uncomfortable bite
      If your upper teeth and lower teeth do not come together properly when you close your mouth or try to chew food, this can cause discomfort in the joint.
    • Swelling, toothache, earache and/or ringing in the ear, headache, dizziness, neck and shoulder pain
    • Facial muscles feel tired

    These symptoms appear because the joint is not functioning as it should. The exact cause of TMJ is unknown, but there are some contributing factors that lead to problems developing in the joint.

    They are

    • Injury
    • Bruxism (grinding of the teeth) and Clenching
      Grinding of the teeth wears the teeth unevenly, affecting a person’s bite. It also places stress on the joint. Clenching of the teeth places stress on the joint and muscles, causing discomfort.
    • Missing teeth
    • Problems with Occlusion
      The teeth do not come together properly when the mouth is closed or when you chew.
    • Dislocated Disc
      The disc that separates the upper and lower parts of the joint shifts out of place causing the joint to become unbalanced.
    • Arthritis
    • Stress
      Stress can lead to the tightening of the jaw, facial, and neck muscles, clenching (whether consciously or unconsciously), and the formation of habits that contribute to the development of TMJ disorders such as biting on pens, nail biting, and excessive gum chewing.

    However, TMJ is treatable. Our doctors have experience and success in diagnosing TMJ disorders, treating the symptoms of TMJ, and correcting the cause(s) of a patient’s discomfort.

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    The TMJ Center of Los Angeles by Wilshire Smile Studio provides TMJ pain treatment, as well as general and cosmetic dentistry, oral surgery, and more.
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