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The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the points at which the lower jaw are attached to the skull, and are located on either side of the face. These joints move synchronously when a person speaks, chews and swallows.
Ankylosis of the TMJ occurs when the joint stiffens or becomes fixed in place, thereby inhibiting its movement.
Causes of TMJ ankylosis include:
· Trauma – from a fall, during childbirth, etc.;
· Birth defect;
· Destruction of the cartilage;
· Infection of the joint;
· Surgery at or near the joint; and
Symptoms and diagnosis
Ankylosis of the TMJ is characterised by a painless, chronic limitation to jaw movement. This may result in:
· Inability to chew;
· Inhibited facial growth;
· Speech impediments;
· Facial asymmetry; and
· Misaligned teeth.
X-rays or other imaging techniques can be used by doctors to identify and diagnose TMJ ankylosis.
Treatment for ankylosis of the TMJ can involve surgically excising part of the jaw bone (condylectomy); providing greater scope for its movement about the TMJ.
Jaw exercises are performed regularly for months to years following condylectomy to maintain the correction.