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Temporomandibular joint syndrome

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Overiew of temporomandibular joint syndrome

The joint between the upper and lower jaw is known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or the jaw joint. This is a complex joint made up of muscles, ligaments and connective tissues that helps in performing the normal activities of the mouth such as chewing and talking.1

The term temporomandibular joint syndrome collectively includes pain at the temporomandibular joint due to spasm of the muscles, derangement of the joint and degenerative changes.2 Any of these changes leads to symptoms and signs such as chronic dull pain at the joint, locking of the jaw, clicking sound at the joint while chewing and decreased mouth opening.3   


Causes of temporomandibular joint syndrome

Although the exact cause of the temporomandibular joint syndrome is not known several factors have been identified as the risk factors. These include:

  • Habitual clenching of teeth during sleep (known as bruxism)
  • Frequent chewing of gum
  • Improper dentures
  • Any injury to the joint such as a fall on the face
  • Underlying joint disorder such as arthritis


Diagnosis of temporomandibular joint syndrome

The condition is diagnosed based on the symptoms experienced by the patient. The dentist may advise certain specialized X-rays to rule out the presence of any underlying conditions.

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Living with temporomandibular joint syndrome

The dentist usually advices to take some pain killers along with medications that relax the muscles.

The dentist may ask the patient to consume a soft diet and avoid excessive chewing.

Warm and cold compress in the area of the joint along with a gentle massage is also helpful.

In case one has a habit of clenching the teeth in sleep, the dentist may advise to wear a removable appliance in the mouth at night.3

Temporomandibular joint syndrome is a chronic condition that requires certain period of time before the symptoms are relieved. An early visit to the dentist and following the instructions for the treatment hasten the relief process.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: December 13, 2013