Thomas Diekwisch has served as a professor and department head at UIC College of Dentistry in Chicago, Illinois, since 2001. At the school’s Brodie Laboratory, Dr. Diekwisch is engaged in several studies relating to areas of craniofacial research, including TMJ function and tooth movement.
There are a number of afflictions that can cause pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), a part of the skull which joins the lower jaw with the temporal bone. These afflictions are collectively known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and can be caused by excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, heightened levels of stress, or an injury, particularly to the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint.
The ailments associated with TMD are typically very painful, as each disorder is characterized by sensitivity and tenderness in the jaw. This pain becomes especially intense when the mouth is opened wide, and can eventually spread to the neck, back, and shoulders. Some patients may find themselves unable to open their mouths very wide, and others will be unable to open their mouths at all. A primary care physician may identify a TMD, though dentists are better suited to diagnose and treat the affliction.