Are you experiencing pain in your mouth, ear, jaw, or the entire right or left side of your face? Do you feel pain when trying to chew or talk? Are you experiencing muscle spasms, locking joints and severe headaches? If you are undergoing one or more of these symptoms, you could be suffering from TMJ disorder.
Below we will discuss TMJ disorder, the causes, symptoms and treatment options.
What is TMJ?
TMJ, also known as the temporomandibular joint, is a hinge that connects at the joint of the jaw and the skull, connecting the temporal bone and lower jaw. There is a temporomandibular joint located on the left and right sides of your jaw. Its primary function is to allow the jaw bone to open and close when you are chewing and talking.
If the temporomandibular joints are working correctly, both will be functioning in harmony, without pain, when you are opening and closing your mouth.
What is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder is when the joints are not working in synchronized motions as you are opening and closing your mouth. The joint may twist or slide when the jaw is making the open and close motions, causing pain to your mouth, jaw, face, or all three.
TMJ affects everyone differently; some people experience chronic pain in multiple areas, while others may not.
This condition is also known to be more common in women than in men.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
It is exigent to determine the actual cause of TMJ disorder. Experts suggest that there are several reasons behind the origin of TMJ disorder, such as:
Genetics – Researchers have primarily looked at genes related to how people respond to stress, since stress is a possible cause for TMJ disorder. A genetic cause does not mean if your mother had TMJ disorder due to stress then you will too; it merely means your chances are a bit higher to develop TMJ disorder at some point.
Jaw Injury – This refers to any damage, such as high impact, to the jaw affecting temporomandibular joints.
Arthritis – Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that can affect the function of the temporomandibular joints.
Osteoarthritis– This is known as a degenerative joint disease that causes the deterioration of cartilage.
Bruxism – Also known as grinding the teeth, bruxism primarily happens while a person is sleeping and can lead to inflammation and pain in the temporomandibular joints.
Clenching – This can take place while awake or sleep. Clenching of the teeth is closely linked to stress.
Physical Activity – Severe vigorous physical activity can cause TMJ disorder; this can also be associated with physical stress on the body.
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
As mentioned previously, most people that are suffering from TMJ disorder have pain in their mouth, ear, or jaw. They may also experience the locking or spasm of muscles.
Other symptoms include:
Difficulty opening/closing the mouth
Clicking or popping when opening/closing the mouth
How Can I Treat TMJ Disorder?
There are a variety of treatment options available, depending on the level of pain you are experiencing and the cause of TMJ disorder.
The pain associated with TMJ disorder can generally be treated with over the counter medications, such as ibuprofen, however some people may experience more chronic pain and require prescription painkillers or muscle relaxers to alleviate the pain.
In some severe cases, surgery may be a treatment option, though surgery is never the firstrecommended treatment option.
Is It Possible to Avoid TMJ Disorder?
There are a few suggestions available to avoid TMJ disorder:
Take smaller bites when eating
Avoid chewing gum
Avoid biting hard objects (e.g. fingernails & pen lids)
Apply moist heat when experiencing muscle spasms
When Should I Seek Medical Care for TMJ Disorder?
Everyone’s case of TMJ is different, so knowing when to seek medical care will vary case to case. In most instances, TMJ disorder can be treated at home, however, if over the counter medications do not eliminate the pain then it is advised to seek medical care.
If a person’s jaw is stuck in the open or closed position, it is advised to seek immediate medical care as well.
I Think I Have TMJ Disorder – Is It Permanent?
TMJ disorder is not considered a permanent condition. TMJ generally goes away with the appropriate treatment, but the disorder can come back in times of stress or if reinjured.
Be sure to follow up with a medical professional and follow the treatment plan you have in place.
Contact us at Lifetime Dental Health at 614-333-9442, our professional dental staff will be more than happy to assist you with your dental concerns.