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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Temporomandibular Joint
March 2002

Q. My dentist wants to do some testing for temporomandibular joint (TMJ)--can you tell me what it is, what can be done to treat it, and what causes it?

A. Temporomandibular joint is the ball and socket type joint near the ear that allows the mouth to open and close. TMJ is a broad term that refers to pain in the jaw most commonly associatedwith chewing or other jaw motion. A careful diagnostic evaluation can be done by a dentist or oral surgeon to determine the cause. Tension resulting in jaw clenching, and abnormalities of teeth alignment are some common causes.

Treatment is determined after identifying the contributing causes. For example if clenching is the primary factor, treatment will often include anti-inflammation and muscle relaxant medication, physical therapy to alleviate symptoms, and a "night-guard" which is a soft plastic covering for the teeth to be worn at night or other times.



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