About TMJ

Many people do not know exactly what TMJ is. That’s understandable because a TMJ disorder includes the jaw joints, the muscles of the head and neck, the teeth, the nerves of the jaw/face/neck, the salivary glands and ears, among others which make up the components of the TMJ complex. Many people are referred to be evaluated even though they don’t have traditional clicking and popping noises from their jaw.

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ’s) are located in front of the ear and are used in talking, chewing, and swallowing. They are the only joint that is one bone but 2 different joints. That means, you can actually have 2 different conditions in the same jaw. The jaw joint moves through the actions of the muscles in both the jaw and neck. In order for your jaw to move correctly, both the muscles and the jaw joints need to work in harmony. When a problem occurs with one or both joints, it creates a TMJ disorder (TMD).

Just like in any joint of the body, there is a disc between the bones to cushion the joint. In cases of clicking, popping, locking, or crunching noises, the disc has become dislodged. Functioning on an injured joint can cause pain and difficulty moving the joint. We use orthopedic appliances to take pressure off the joint to help the TMJ’s heal.

No joint of the body moves without muscles. In some cases, a muscle in the jaw can spasm, causing localized jaw/facial pain. In other cases, a long-standing jaw injury and disc problem can lead to persistent muscle pain around the injured joint. We often utilize physical therapy in our treatment to help heal injured muscles.

In some cases, a team approach using physical therapists, Ear Nose Throat, Neurologists, Rheumatologists (Arthritis doctors), dentists and dental specialists work with Dr. Karkow to solve the individual’s needs. However, Dr. Karkow feels the biggest team member in the plan is the patient!

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