By: J. Shahangian, DDS, MS- San Diego Board Certified Pediatric Dentist
The term TMJ (temporomandibular joint) refers to our jaw. This joint connects the mandible, or lower jaw, to the temporal bones, or side bones on our head. This highly flexible joint allows for smooth movement of our jaw, enabling us to talk, chew, and even yawn. The surrounding muscles of this joint stabilize and control our jaw’s movement.
Condyles are the curved ends of our lower jaw, and when we open our mouth, they move smoothly alongside the socket of the temporal bone.
“TMJ syndrome” or “TMD” refers to temporomandibular (jaw) disorder which is a disorder that is usually associated with the jaw. There are several ways that your child could develop TMD or TMJ syndrome. For example, this could occur when your child does side-motion movements and closing and opening the jaw.
TMD is usually an assortment of conditions that are often painful and that affect muscles that are responsible for chewing, and the joint itself. Although the exact number of people who suffer from TMD is unknown, according to the NIDCRF (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research), women are twice as likely to have TMD as men. Luckily, symptoms like jaw muscle and jaw joint pain are not necessarily indicators of more serious problems. Moreover, discomfort and pain for the most part is sporadic and temporary, and only occurs in cycles or waves.
According to the NIDCRF, only a small percentage of people who suffer from TMD actually develop long-term symptoms.
There are three main categories of temporomandibular disorders:
- The most common form of TMD is myofascial pain. This discomfort and pain is located on the muscles that control the shoulder and neck, and especially the muscles that control the jaw function.
- Internal derangement of the joint, injury to the condyle, or dislocated jaw or disc
- Degenerative joint disease, for instance rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint or osteoarthritis
Your child may have pain and problems if he/she has a severe injury to the TMJ or jaw. Your child may experience arthritis in the jaw after the injury. In the past, orthodontic treatments such as the use of headgear and braces had been blamed for different forms of TMD. However, recent studies conducted by the NIDCRF have disproven these claims.
Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has shown that in the past few years, there has been increased attention on treatment of temporomandibular disorders in young adults and children. There has been a new reassessment regarding important symptoms and signs of TMD and TMJ disorder in children, the importance of some diagnostic tests, and what is the appropriate therapy.
 http://www.sunnysidedentistryforchildren.com/library/2023/PacifiersandThumbandFingerSucking.html, accessed January 2, 2012