Types of TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) affect your jaw system, including the muscles, bones, nerves, and connective tissue. TMJ is really an umbrella term for several closely related disorders. Understanding the different types of TMJ can help you understand how TMJ causes different types of jaw pain.

The three commonly accepted types of TMJ are:

  • Myofascial pain disorders (MPD)
  • Disc displacement (DD)
  • Degenerative joint disease (DJD)

Myofascial pain disorders are when your muscles aren’t working efficiently in your jaw system, leading to muscle pain and dysfunction. Because muscles underlie much of your face and extend up the sides of your head, MPD doesn’t just cause jaw pain; it can lead to facial pain and headaches. MPD is also closely related to ear symptoms such as ear pain, ear fullness, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

The temporomandibular joint is a complicated structure that has to be able to move forward and back, side to side, and even up and down without tilting your head. However, this maneuverability comes at a price. The cushioning disc between the two bones in the joint can slip out of place. When this happens, you may experience jaw sounds, irregular motion, limited motion, and even a locked jaw. It can also cause pain.

Degenerative joint disease occurs when medical conditions and/or wear on the jaw joint causes destructive changes to the joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of DJD, but there are many other potential sources of joint degeneration. DJD can cause joint sounds and impaired joint motion or a locked jaw.

It’s possible to have all three types of TMJ at the same time. Minneapolis neuromuscular dentist Dr. Bril can analyze your jaw system to determine what type or types you have.

TMJ-Related Muscle Pain

Muscle pain is the most common type of pain linked to TMJ, and it’s most often linked to myofascial pain disorder (MPD), though it can occur with other TMJ types. This type of pain occurs when your muscles are overworked and get sore. Muscle overwork might be linked to overworking your jaw. Other times, the problem is that your jaw muscles aren’t working together as they should, which can result in inefficient jaw function or even jaw muscles that are working against each other.

This type of jaw pain is most often a dull, throbbing pain. This type of pain is often described as facial pain or headache because the jaw muscles extend under the face and up the side of the head to the temples. It’s closely related to tension headaches.

TMJ-Related Joint Pain

You might also feel TMJ-related pain in your jaw joints. You can experience pain in just one joint or in both joints. Joint pain is most often related to disc displacement (DD) or degenerative joint disease (DJD). However, it can also be linked to MPD.

In DD, when the cushioning disc moves out of place, the connective tissue that’s supposed to hold the disc in place gets pinched between the bones. This is not just painful, it can lead to the destruction of the connective tissue, which makes it harder for the cushioning disc to move back into place. When this happens, your jaw might not be able to close. Jaw joint grinding might also lead to the creation of bone spurs–sharp fragments of bone that break off and can stab your soft tissue in the area.

TMJ-Related Bone Pain

Your bones have fewer pain-sensing nerves than other body structures, but they can still hurt, especially if they’re subjected to painful forces over a prolonged period. The intense force of tooth clenching, as well as pressure points caused by irregular bite force, can put pressure on your teeth. This pressure can cause pain that you might feel as a toothache or a bone ache.

TMJ-Related Nerve Pain

TMJ-related nerve pain is most often a sharp, stabbing, or electric pain. It occurs when elements of the jaw system put pressure on your nerves. This pain might not be felt in the jaw but could be experienced as referred pain almost anywhere the nerve serves, which includes much of the face and head. Sometimes, you might experience tingling or numbness, but it’s related to the same cause.

All types of TMJ can cause nerve pain. The pressure from muscles could pinch your nerves, or the nerves might be caught between different parts of the jaw joints.

Effective Treatment of Jaw Pain in Minneapolis

As you can see, the types of jaw pain caused by TMJ can be complicated. The first step in effective treatment is a successful and clear diagnosis. This is where Minneapolis TMJ dentist Dr. Bril can help. He can not only diagnose whether you have TMJ but determine what type or types of TMJ you have. This can help you get effective jaw pain treatment.

Please call (952) 944-2052 or use our online form to request an appointment at Brilliant Dentistry, serving the Minneapolis area from Eden Prairie.