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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

TMJ questions.

09/13/2000

Question:

My mother was recently diagnosed with TMJ so I am doing a little research. Her Dr was not able to give her much information on what causes it. Since she is in her late fifties and had not had any recent trauma is it safe to assume that this conditions is due more to arthritis? She does have a tendency to grind and clentch her teeth at night. What are the chance that this can be hereditary? I also grind my teeth at night and I find myself clenching my jaw most of the day. Should I also see my dentist for a bite block as a preventative measure? One last question: as far as the popping and cracking when the jaw is opening, how much, if any, popping and cracking is normal. Thank you for your time!

Answer:

TMJ is multifactorial and can be caused by problems within or outside of the joint capsule. Problems within the joint are less common, but when present may be from arthritis. This may be hereditary. More commonly TMJ syndrome is caused by poor tooth contact and/or grinding of the teeth at night. A visit to a dentist who is familiar with TMJ is a good place to start. For patients with these problems, a dental appliance can be helpful. Popping of the joint occurs from temporary anterior joint dislocation, and is not diagnostic of TMJ and may be present in patients without TMJ. I hope this helps and good luck.

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Response by:

David  L Steward, MD David L Steward, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati