The Basics of TMJ
For those that have suffered through the agony of an aching jaw and issues with jaw mobility, you may have come across the term TMJ dysfunction. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint and is so-named because it connects the bones of your skull (temporal bones) to your jaw, and provides movement for daily functions. This joint is what allows your jaw to move up and down, as well as side to side. TMJ dysfunction is labeled as any amount of pain, tightness, or aching of this joint or the corresponding jaw muscles, which are located in front of each ear. Though anyone can suffer from these issues, people ages 20 – 40, and women more than men, are most susceptible to TMJ dysfunction.
TMJ Causes and Symptoms
Though there are no clear-cut causes agreed upon by experts, it’s thought that TMJ dysfunction can be brought on by
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Joint arthritis
- Stress causing excess muscle tension
- Misalignment of teeth
- Movement of the disc that provides a cushion between the ball and socket of the joint
- Trauma like whiplash or other injury to the jaw or face muscles
Symptoms can vary by severity and persistence. Some people experience pain or discomfort for just a few weeks, and others for many years, with symptoms possibly occurring on one or both sides of the face. TMJ symptoms include:
- Hearing problems
- Jaw muscle pain or tiredness
- Localized soreness around the side of the face, shoulders or neck
- Issues opening your mouth wide
- Feeling your jaw “lock” when your mouth is opened or closed
- A popping or grating sound/feeling
- Swelling on the side of your face
- Pain and tightness when doing everyday activities such as yawning, chewing and talking
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Diagnosing TMJ dysfunction
Diagnosing TMJ dysfunction usually involves eliminating other possible causes of symptoms, like tooth decay, sinus issues, arthritis or gum disease. Diagnosis is fairly non-invasive, consisting of your dentist feeling for tightness in your jaw muscles, listening for popping or clicking sounds, checking your bite alignment and tooth health, and possibly doing x-rays of your jaw. In some cases, more precise tools may be needed, such as a CT scan or MRI, which show better details of the joint and surrounding bones.
While causes are yet to be precisely pinpointed, the good news is that there are solutions. Some people find relief by making simple lifestyle changes, like better posture, minimizing jaw clenching throughout the day, not resting their chin on their hand, eating softer foods or applying heating and cold packs pads to the area. For those who need more specialized treatment, Wooten is the perfect next step. Wooten Dentistry offers several additional services, including a variety of methods for alleviating TMJ dysfunction, like professional night guards. The jaw pain and discomfort brought on by TMJ dysfunction can make living a normal and enjoyable life difficult, so don’t wait to seek treatment. Book an appointment today and see how Wooten Dentistry can be the solution to your TMJ dysfunction.