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FAQ:  TMJ / TMD - Jaw Joint Pain



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Question:
For the past year or so I have had problems with my jaw. It clicks continuously when opening my mouth and seems to be 'off balance'. It seems as though my teeth don't fit comfortably together anymore. However, the most stressful part is when it locks and I can only open it half an inch. I get increasingly panicked by the situation, and this is only worsened by the fact that I have a phobia about damage to bones.

I have visited my doctor who sent me for a jaw x-ray, which didn't show anything, and he said it would probably just go away. The last time it locked I was distraught and went to the hospital's ER, but they didn't know what it was either. They said as it wasn't dislocated they couldn't help and sent me away.

I am frustrated as I find the threat of locking as daunting as any serious injury and I find myself worrying all the time. My jaw has just locked this morning, as I woke up from a nap, and I am now a little distressed. I have found your TMJ site and am wondering if you have any advice for me.

Obviously, I understand that you work in the US and as such have no experience of UK procedure, but I am wondering who you think I should approach next. I did happen to mention my jaw to the dentist I have just registered with and he didn't seem to have any recognition of my problem, like the doctor.

Can you confirm that my suspicions are right about TMJ and that I am right to pursue this with a health care provider? Can you also advise whether you think this may have anything to do with wisdom teeth growth. This started about the same time for me as the lower right wisdom tooth started to come through. I look forward to hearing from you. ...Visitor from Norwich, England

Answer:
What you have is very common and usual, unfortunately physicians have no clue how to treat it and there are only a few dentists in the world that know how to cure your type of jaw related problem.

In England, the chances that you will find competent help are nill to none! Sad, but true. The x-rays that you had taken probably don't show anything because I doubt you had the correct x-rays taken. You need an MRI of the TMJoints, as well as transcranial X-rays or Tomographs.

Your joints probably have fused discs underneath the anterior tubercle of the glenoid fossa...that's why they lock up on you! You need conservative treatment, to start with. There is a slight possibility of a surgery called "plication" that should only be considered done by a conservative surgeon who has performed at least a few hundred succesful ones.

Your condition will only get worse as you age, unfortunately. Visit the AACFP.org website and the AAFO.org website and maybe you can get one of these 2 organizations to refer you to someone in your neck of the woods who can handle your problem. Let me know how it goes.

Editorial Staff

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