Temporomandibular joint disorders The temporomandibular joint, or ATM, is a small joint located at the front of the ear at the meeting point between the mandible and the skull. This articulation allows the jaw to move and function and is the most used of the body. The ATM is a “ball and pocket” articulation, in which the “ball” shaped part is called condilo; the pocket is called a joint fossa. Between the condyle and the fossa there is a disk, consisting of cartilage that acts as a cushion absorbing stress, and that allows the condyle to move easily during the opening and closing of the mouth. Behind the joint, the disc continues to a tissue containing nerves and vessels, which can be quite sensitive. Ligaments keep the disc and the condyle in position, the muscles surrounding the TMJ help stabilize the joint and move the jaw during chewing, speech and other functions. When all the elements of the ATM are in harmony and work properly, the joint works smoothly and without problems. TMJ disorders can develop if these elements do not work as they should, or if stress, trauma or other factors generate TMJ problems
What are TMJ disorders ? TMJ disorders may be relatively minor or extremely painful and debilitating. Emotional stresses combined with the habit of clenching the teeth as well as muscular spasms around the joint and the jaws can trigger articular symptoms. Mallocated jaws and, in some cases, arthritis may be the cause of TMJ disorders. Trauma, like a blow to the chin or jaw, can dislocate the condyle or the disc, causing various problems. In some cases, the disk is dislocated, interfering with its interface function between “ball” and “pocket”. The layer of sensitive tissue behind the disc, becomes the bearing with consequent weakness and pain in the joint. In some cases the disk can move so far that the mouth can not open completely. This condition can cause a degeneration of the joint, a form of arthritis that involves the bones of the joint. TMJ disorders can show a variety of symptoms and some signs may indicate the potential for developing such problems. The following are signs that can be found in patients with joint disease: • Click or painful joint pops when opening or closing the mouth. • Habit to clamp or grind your teeth • Maxillary muscular irritation upon awakening • Difficulty in opening the mouth completely • Frequent headaches • ATM pain in the levers • Mandibular locking.
Possibility of treatment In the treatment of joint disorders will have to work with his surgeon and in some cases with his prosthetist and orthodontist. It is important to know that most of the joint disorders are treatable, totally or in part, from self-care and lifestyle changes. Some problems, in addition to self-care, require wider therapies, including surgery.
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