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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

There are challenges diagnosing a TMJ disorder because the cause of the disorder and the pain need to be determined.

One example of this is that neuralgia may be confused with a TMJ disorder because when there is an injury to the nerve to the TMJ the symptoms of neuralgia are similar to those of a TMJ disorder.

When ligaments in and around the TMJ become damaged the disc in the TMJ often becomes displaced. This can result in a clicking or popping sound coming from the jaw or pain in the area from a joint sprain. In this case the source of the TMJ disorder and the pain is intracapsular.

A TMJ disorder may also be caused from the muscles as well as the tendons and attachments that move the jaw and the TMJ. In this case the cause of the disorder and pain is myogenous or extracapsular.

A detailed diagnostic assessment is therefore required in order to determine the root cause of the disorder.

Additional possibilities include:

– Arthritis

– Growth in the TMJ that is not normal

– Bone remodeling due to an abnormal load to the joints over a period of time

– Infection in the joint related to Lyme’s disease

While a trauma such as a sports or motor vehicle accident can cause a TMJ disorder, in most cases the cause is micro-trauma. Micro-trauma may come from clenching the jaw over extended periods of time and sleep rhythmic masticatory muscle activity. This is when there is a disruption in the nerve signal to the jaw and muscle harmony.

Inflammation and resulting pain is often associated with this. While many people have symptoms of a TMJ disorder, it is the pain that comes from the inflammation that ends up motivating them to seek professional help.

This inflammation could be related to the musculoskeletal structures of the body or a local area such as the TMJ itself. Other local areas that could have inflammation would include the neck and shoulders, the spinal column, the arms, hips, knees and feet.

Inflammation is one type of chronic stress to the body. A TMJ disorder could also be affected by other chronic stressors to the body and nervous system which end up causing a person to clench their teeth or have unusual facial expressions. Some of these chronic stressors that could affect a TMJ disorder include chronic fatigue, emotional distress, fibromyalgia, obstructive sleep apnea, chemical sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal cystitis and more.

TMJ disorders are therefore seen as having many factors involved. Many different types of health care practitioners therefore can play a role in treating this disorder.