TMJ or Temporomandibular joint is a joint we use all the time. It is a type of joint responsibility for the movement of jaw allowing us to talk, chew, yawn, and laugh. TMJ is normally flexible and doesn’t create or give any uncomfortable feeling when it functions unless there’s a notable jaw joint pain or temporomandibular joint disorder that exists.
We have two TMJs, one on each side of the jaw. Like any other joint pain like arthritis, we experience in the lower part of the body, TMJ can also suffer from such injuries. These injuries may cause pain and discomfort in the jaw, mouth, and neck area that needs an immediate check-up from a dentist or medical doctor.
What Causes Jaw Joint Pain or TMJ Disorder?
The reason for a TMJ disorder varies but in most cases, the cause is unknown. Some of the cases come from great impact in the jaw part, improper alignment of the joints, poor posture, and damage jaw cartilage. Stress is also said to contribute to having problems with TMJ. Some behavioral factors are said to also lead to TMJ disorder like the following:
- Chewing gum
- Teeth grinding
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Eating hard food
- Wide biting
- Nail biting
Age and gender may add up to the risk factors for TMJ disorder. Wear and tear due to aging can also be a cause. While anyone can have jaw joint pain symptoms, women are more prone to developing the disorder as they are more likely to be stressed than men. Remember stress can prompt many health problems including TMJ disorder.
Besides jaw joint pain and discomfort, here are the other symptoms of a TMJ disorder:
- Pain around the ear
- Facial pain
- Lock Jaw
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Clicking sounds when opening the mouth
- Hearing problems
- A headache and dizziness
Three Types of TMJ Disorder
- Muscle Disorders – The most common TMJ disorder. TM joint muscle disorder includes pain in the muscles which control the jaw function as well as the muscles of the neck and shoulder.
- Derangement Disorders – This TM joint disorder includes dislocated jaw and injured the bone.
- Degenerative Disorders – This TMJ disorder is usually caused by aging and destruction of the jaw cartilage.
Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
Not because you experience the above symptoms once, you already have a TMJ disorder. We can encounter these symptoms once in our lives or if we have another medical condition that has the same symptoms so it’s always ideal to talk to your doctor and immediately know what is going on in your body.
The first thing to do is to make an appointment with your dentist. In the dental clinic, your dentist may:
- Observe the range of motion of the jaw
- Listen to the clicking sounds it may produce upon the dental exam.
- Check for the areas around the jaw and identify sites of pain and discomfort
- Perform a dental x-ray, CT scan, and MRI to get detailed images of bones and joints
How TMJ Disorder Treated
Some TMJ disorders go away without necessary treatment. You just have to avoid the factors that contribute to having the problem. For others, these treatments may be recommended by your dentist/doctor:
- Medication – Pain relievers and muscle relaxants are most of the commonly prescribed medicines for pain relief and discomfort.
- Therapy – Bite guards and physical and facial therapies are also available for most types of TMJ disorder.
- Surgery – Arthrocentesis is the usual invasive treatment for TMJ perform by an oral maxillofacial surgeon.
A temporomandibular joint can also have injuries and malfunctions like any other joints in the body. There are many risk factors yet most of them can be avoided. But when you encounter the symptoms, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor so that you can be informed as early as possible as well as prevent complications that it may have caused.