The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a small joint located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. It allows the lower jaw (mandible) to move and funtion.
Symptoms of this disorder include clicking or popping sounds from the jaw joint(s), pain in the joints, the temple, neck, and face, with headaches, muscle spasms, difficulty chewing and a feeling of an abnormal bite. Patients often have moderate to severe pain, joint noise, difficulty opening or closing, or chewing a normal diet, all which impact adversely on most of their activities of daily living. All too often, in untrained hands of so-called “TMJ” doctors (not a recognize specialty of either medicine or dentistry) patients may undergo inadviseable and irreversible treatment by tooth grinding, “jaw manipulation and adjustment”, and/or placement of massive splints which may permanently move teeth into abnormal positions. The result may be permanent jaw misalignment requiring years of braces to correct.
As opposed to those who hold themselves out to be “TMJ” specialists, Oral surgeons have four years of training past dental school in the full range of management of TMJ disorders, including both noninvasive (splints, medication, injections, etc) and invasive (joint surgery or replacement). And contrary to most perceptions, including the dental community, surgery is the last option chosen by the competent oral surgeon. In the hands of a competent oral surgeon, non-surgical and noninvasive options are considered early; surgical options are only considered when the course of treatment for these patients dictates their consideration.