san marcos tmj dentist sonny eslampour dds
Sonny Eslampour, DDS
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TMJ Disorders

As our San Marcos TMJ dentist explains, to better understand this disorder, we need a  little bit of basic understanding of this joint. TMJ stands for "Temporo-Mandibular Joint".  It has 3 components and they are all mentioned in its name.
1. "Temporo" for Temporal bone (part of base of the skull).
2. "Mandibular" for the Mandible (or the lower jaw)
3. "Joint" for the hour-glass shaped disc (made of cartilage) which is attached to the mandible.

san marcos tmj dentist identifies tmj and its components

To distinguish your jaw joint from other joints in the body, let's look at your elbow. The elbow is a joint that has 2 movable components: the upper arm and the lower arm. In the case of the TMJ, it only has one movable component: the mandible (lower jaw).  The jaw joint sits in between the 2 bony parts of the TMJ. The joint (or the disc) is attached to the lower jaw. The disc is attached by ligaments to the mandible, much like a football helmet is strapped on.  These joints are set into motion every time we open and close our mouths, like when we speak, or eat or swallow.

As our TMJ dentist further explains, when the components of the TMJ do not work in harmony, the disc gets dislocated from its proper position. When this happens, there is usually a popping, clicking or crackling sound. Sometimes it is very faint and sometimes it is so obvious that it is heard by others.

san marcos tmj dentist explains TMJ with pictures

Jaw Clicking to Locked Jaw

After some time, there may be times when the jaw gets "stuck". You cannot open it very wide but after a little while you can get your jaw moving again. When enough time goes by and with  repeated dislocations of the jaw joint, the disc becomes stuck more permanently. You know this is the case when you can barely open your mouth to put a couple of your fingers in there or when it hurts really bad to open your mouth wide. Sometimes you have to move your jaw left and right and try to "unlock" it. This condition is sometimes referred to as jaw "catching or locking." 

The disc itself can sustain quite a bit of damage. It can be worn down, or worn through (like the hole in the knee of an old pair of jeans).  It can lose its original (and protective) shape or get stuck to another part of the jaw. Or a combination of these.

In very rare circumstances you see a tumor or other structural problems that would indicate the need for surgery. However surgery is almost never the first choice for treatment, as explained by our San Marcos TMJ dentist.

Regardless of the cause of this disorder, there can be a number of symptoms.  In cases where treatment is delayed or neglected, there can be further deterioration of the component of the joint.

As a result of this dislocation, there is impingement (or pinching) of different nerves around the joint.  This nerve impingement results in symptoms such as pain when chewing, ringing in the ears, stuffiness of the ears and loss of balance or dizziness. Other symptoms included neck, shoulder pain, facial pain, jaw pain, headaches and sensitivity to lights or sounds. While these are not all of the symptoms, they typically are most commonly seen in TMJ patients.

Sonny Eslampour, DDS is a dentist with a sub-specialty in treatment of TMJ disorders and Sleep Apnea.
TMJ & Sleep Apnea Center
555 S Rancho Santa Fe Road, #100
San Marcos, CA 92078