Sometimes the problem that brings a patient to a Waco dental office has little to do with his teeth. He may have frequent toothaches, particularly from his molars, and pain in his jaw but no evidence of tooth decay. It may be the jaw joint or its associated muscles causing the discomfort. Further investigation of this pain should be done by a TMJ dentist in Waco in Waco.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It is the joint that connects your lower jaw or mandible to your temporal bone, which forms the side of the skull. It is a hinge and gliding joint that allows your mouth to open and close. You have two, one on each side of your head. It is located just in front of your ear.
A number of tendons and ligaments connect to this joint and the surrounding muscles of your head, face and neck. The complex network stretches around your skull, down your neck and across the shoulders. There is also a small disc of cartilage that cushions the ball of the mandible and keeps it from grinding against the temporal bone. Pain, popping and locking can occur when this disc slips out of place.
The signs and symptoms of TMJ dysfunction or disorder, called TMD, sometimes appear to be a dental problem. Patients often complain of toothaches in their lower jaw but they may also have headaches or neck pain. All of these symptoms can be signs of trouble in the joint.
Here are a few more symptoms that may point to TMJ dysfunction.
• Popping, clicking or grinding noises in the jaw.
• Tenderness, tightness or pain in the facial muscles.
• Dull ache in the facial muscles, head, neck and even shoulders.
• Locking of the jaw in the open or closed position.
• Swelling in the cheeks or face.
• Difficulty in operating the lower jaw (eating, talking, yawning, etc.).
Pain is the primary symptom that brings patients to a TMJ dentist in Waco. The pain can be very sharp or dull and achy. It may only occur during chewing or yawning or it can be a more persistent pain.
Diagnosis and Tests
Diagnosing a disorder or dysfunction of this joint may not be easy. Some patients continue to seek help for what they believe is a toothache when the real problem lies elsewhere. A dentist specializing in these issues can give the patient a better understanding of the underlying cause of the pain and a better course of treatment to relieve it.
In order to diagnose the problem, your dentist will probably order some tests to identify where the issue lies. They are typically painless and non-invasive, which patients certainly appreciate. Here are a few of the diagnostic tools your dentist may utilize.
• X-rays. He may order standard or panoramic x-rays to view the position of the bones.
• CT scans. A CT or “cat” scan (computer tomography) will show the bony portion of the joint in better detail.
• MRI. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan will show both the bone and the soft tissues, like the cartilage disc, muscles and tendons.
Your dentist should be able to tell you more about where your pain is originating after these tests. He will then be able to prescribe a course of treatment or he may refer you to an oral surgeon. Understanding the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction is the first step towards healing.
Steven T. Cutbirth DDS
1613 Lake Success Drive
Waco, TX 76710
Howdy! You, too, shall suffer my fate. Trust me. | Flickr – Photo Sharing! : taken from – http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/3501244973/Author: Steve Snodgrass http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en