TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint disorder, a condition that occurs when the jaw joints (called the temporomandibular joints) become irritated and inflamed. TMJ is often associated with chronic teeth grinding, often during sleep. Many people suffer from chronic headaches, jaw pain, and facial pain without realizing they have TMJ. Having an evaluation of any of these symptoms is critical for receiving care that can resolve symptoms and prevent complications.
TMJ often occurs in people with bite balance problems including people with crooked, misaligned or missing teeth, but it can occur in people with perfectly-aligned bites as well. Chronic stress is often a contributing factor, causing the facial muscles to remain tense and contracted and placing uneven strains on the jaw joints, leading to irritation, inflammation, and pain. TMJ symptoms also can develop as a result of tooth loss or following a dental restoration that alters - even slightly - the bite mechanics and balance.
The most common symptoms of TMJ are chronic headaches, jaw pain, and facial pain. Nighttime teeth grinding is another common symptom, and over time, grinding can cause tooth surfaces to become worn or cracked, causing tooth decay, infections, tooth fractures and even tooth loss. Persistent grinding can also cause gums to recede, significantly increasing the risk of gum disease. Often, people with untreated TMJ have very large, square or misshapen jaws as a result of the continual movement of the jaw muscles.
Temporomandibular joint disorder treatment used to rely solely on surgery to relieve symptoms, but today, most patients can be effectively treated without surgical intervention. BOTOX injections are a very effective treatment option for many patients with TMJ, acting to block nerve signals that cause the jaw muscles to contract and spasm. The number and frequency of injections will depend on the patient’s facial anatomy and their symptoms.