What is TMJ?

Many patients, physicians, and insurance companies use the term TMJ, but what does it mean? TMJ stands for temporal mandibular joint, or the jaw joint. When you hear the word TMJ used by a doctor or dentist to describe a painful condition, it is actually TMD, or a temporal mandibular disorder. The TMJ is formed from the temporal bone of the skull to the lower jaw or mandible. There is one on each side of the face just in front of the ear. It helps with chewing, talking, or swallowing. The TMJ is actually a sliding joint, not a ball and socket like your shoulder. This sliding allows us to distribute pressure placed on the jaw throughout the joint and not just in one area.

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It is important to know the joint function and autonomy to gain an understanding of how it can be injured or damaged. Between the temporal bone and lower jaw there is a small disc made of cartilage and acts as a third bone for the TMJ. Because this disc is attached to a muscle, it moves with the TMJ. Also, the nerve to the TMJ is a branch of the trigeminal nerve, so if an injury to the TMJ occurs, it can also affect this nerve branch causing referral pain. The referral pain can be anything from headaches, jaw, ear, sinus, or neck pain. The jaw joint is also held together by a series of ligaments, any of which can be damaged, like any other joint in the body.
Damage to the TMJ ligaments can result in a dislocation of the disc, lower jaw, or both. Muscles that are also closely connected to the jaw are the temporalis and masseter. Injury to these muscles can result in painful jaw and abnormal movement. A TMJ disorder can be quite painful, debilitating, and frustrating. That is why it is important to us at TMJ Therapy to help educate people and clinicians about this condition and the treatments for it.
If you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, please reach out to Dr. Karla Isaacs to schedule a consultation.

Meet The Doctor

Dr. Karla Isaacs is a Columbia-trained orthodontist who brings to her practice both a fund of knowledge and breadth of clinical orthodontic modalities obtained from more than 15 years as an orthodontic specialist. She is a long time owner and director of 2 previous dental and orthodontic practices in New York City, having successfully seen both from their inception to their now 10+ years in operation.
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