TMJ is the term most people use for it, but TMJ actually refers to the temporomandibular joint, of which there are two, one on either side of the face or, more specifically, the lower jaw. The condition commonly referred to as TMJ is actually TMJ syndrome or TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder is a facial condition that occurs within the temporomandibular joint that causes pain and difficult mobility of the jaw. A patient who suffers from TMJ disorder may have trouble opening their jaw, causing pain, difficulty with eating, and even difficulty with speaking. Good dentists throughout the country recommend various treatment methods for TMJ disorder and the pain and restrictions that can accompany it.
Temporomandibular joints allow your jaw to move, from forward to back, side to side, and up and down. These joints provide the means for speaking, biting, chewing, and swallowing. They also enable our ability to make facial expressions. If TMJ disorder develops, these capabilities become compromised, causing restrictions in motion, speaking, eating, etc. TMJ disorder can cause painful symptoms such as headache, or pain in the shoulders, jaw, mouth, and/or neck area. Some patients who have been diagnosed with TMJ disorder may experience facial swelling or even sounds of clicking whenever they use their mouths.
Causes of TMJ
The most common causes of TMJ disorder are grinding of the teeth, arthritis, misaligned bite, and dental procedures.
Grinding, which often happens at night when patients are unaware they’re doing it, can cause cartilage of temporomandibular joints to wear away. This will eventually lead to bone rubbing against bone, as cartilage is meant to work as a buffer between bones. Stress is a big contributor to teeth grinding. If you often awaken to find you’re experiencing headaches, jaw pain, or even ear pain, you may be grinding your teeth as you sleep without knowing it. Those who have such symptoms should speak to their dentists about the situation.
Degenerative arthritis patients may experience the development of TMJ syndrome because this disease can lead to the dislocation of the disk that’s situated between the jawbone and its socket. When the disk is dislocated, a clicking or popping sound can occur. Rheumatoid arthritis can even lead to joints becoming fused, preventing jaw movement altogether. For these reasons, patients suffering from arthritis should see their dentists regularly to keep close watch on their symptoms.
Patients who have misaligned bites may develop TMJ disorder because there is undue stress occurring on muscles, especially those that enable biting and chewing. TMJ disorder that develops from a misaligned bite can lead not only to pain, but also to spasmodic occurrences in the muscles of the jaw.
Medical and dental procedures
There are even medical and dental procedures that can lead to TMJ disorder. Those that require use of a breathing tube can lead to TMJ disorder because the breathing tube will need to remain fixed and in place for a period of time, which means the mouth needs to remain opened for a prolonged period of time. This kind of overuse of the jaw can cause jaw injury and TMJ disorder.
Treatment options for TMJ
The good news is that there are a number of treatment options available to those who suffer with the symptoms of TMJ disorder. The first line of treatment for many patients is pain medication. This can be over-the-counter or prescribed by a healthcare provider such as a doctor or dentist. A regimen of physical therapy can also be prescribed. In some cases, especially those that cause severe pain, a dentist may recommend a beneficial surgical procedure that involves repositioning the temporomandibular joint in order to enable proper jaw mobility.
Millions of people in the United States suffer from TMJ disorder that can be caused by teeth grinding, arthritis, and even some dental procedures. TMJ disorder can lead to difficulty speaking or eating, and it can be very painful. But suffering in silence isn’t necessary, as there are a number of treatment options, including pain medications, physical therapy, and dental procedures available to combat TMJ disorder and the pain and constraints it can cause. If you’re exhibiting any of the symptoms of TMJ disorder, it is recommended that you schedule a consultation with a top dentist in your area for more information about TMJ disorder, diagnosis, and, if necessary, treatment.