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Understanding TMJ Dysfunction:  Frequently Asked Questions
What is TMJ dysfunction?
TMJ dysfunction occurs when there is a lack of harmony between the motion of the temporomandibular joints and the proper interdigitation and function of the teeth somewhere within the mandibular range of motion. This can result in any number of TMJ dysfunction symptoms which are described in detail elsewhere in this website.
What causes TMJ dysfunction?
There appear to be a number of causes. Accidents, or trauma, are a known cause. Clenching, bruxing, or grinding the teeth has also been implicated. Stress is another factor that plays a role in the problem. Developmental problems associated with either of the jaws can definitely be a factor. Orthopedic and orthodontic problems may contribute to the precipitation of a TMJ problem. At the Center, we have noticed a higher incidence of TMJ dysfunction in patients who have previously had orthodontic extractions. A very common thread that is found among TMJ sufferers is that the mandibular condyle occupies a more posterior and/or superior position within the joint space than what would be considered optimal. Any of the previously mentioned “causes” could be responsible for that phenomenon. There is no single condition that always causes TMJ dysfunction. It is usually a combination of a few or many interfacing conditions.
Who is most likely to get it?
Women are about 6 to 8 times more likely to have TMJ dysfunction than men. It most commonly affects women in the 3rd and 4th decades of life, but it can affect anyone at almost any age.
Can TMJ dysfunction be successfully treated?
If we define successful treatment as the elimination or improvement in the symptoms caused by the dysfunction, then most often it can be successfully treated. If there have been extensive osteoarthritic changes in bony surfaces within the joint capsule, we may not see a complete normalization of the bony structures.
How is it treated?
Unfortunately, most treatments for TMJ dysfunction are directed toward the symptoms of the problem rather than at the underlying causes of the problem. Examples include: all drugs, all physical therapy, all chiropractic therapy, all massage therapy, and most splint therapy. All of those modalities may have an appropriate place in the overall management of the patient as long as very specific, corrective therapy is also initiated.