The TMJ or the temporomandibular joint is a sliding-hinge-like joint that connects the jawbone to your skull. If you frequently suffer from severe jaw pain, have noticed ringing in your ears, or experience unusual headaches, you could be exhibiting symptoms of TMJ disorders. Temporomandibular disorders or TMDs affect the nerves, muscles, and joints around the jaw. TMD result in jaw muscle dysfunction, which controls jaw movement and often causes chronic facial pain.
Causes of TMD and Risk Factors
The causes of TMD are not explicitly understood. However, research shows that injuries to the jaw, head, and neck muscles may cause TMD. Genetics and history of arthritis are the other possible causes of this condition. People who report jaw pain tend to grind or clench their teeth, but some do not develop TMD. Even so, some common risk factors of TMD include long-term grinding or clenching of the teeth, jaw injuries, various types of arthritis, and connective tissue disorders.
Symptoms of TMD
Before you can conclude that you have a TMJ disorder, first, you must be examined by a qualified dentist. Otherwise, jaw injuries or unexplained headaches can easily be mistaken for TMD. Your dentist will take x-rays of your jaws and may even recommend CT and MRI scans before prescribing any TMD treatment.
The following are the most common symptoms of TMD:
- Pain on the jaw joint or the masticatory muscles (these are the muscles you use to chew). You may also feel pain in the neck or shoulders.
- Popping or clicking noises in the jaw when chewing.
- A noticeable change in the alignment of your upper and lower teeth, impacting your bite.
- Stiffness or locking of the jaw.
- Difficulty hearing or ringing in your ears.
- Frequent headaches or migraines.
Before you receive any treatment for TMD, there are some things you need to know. One is that it’s normal for your TMJ to have some popping or clicking sound without experiencing any pain. If you experience any of the symptoms of TMD, then you should visit your dentist for an examination to determine conclusively whether or not you have a TMJ disorder.
Standard treatment options for TMD include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and surgery. Depending on the severity of the Temporomandibular disorder, your doctor may prescribe any of these three treatments. Surgery is performed in adverse cases, such as TMD that causes immense jaw pain, headaches, and discomfort.
Other alternative treatments include resting the TMJ and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation. In cases where chewing certain foods causes discomfort, the doctor may recommend dietary changes and the use of ice packs.
Seek an Expert Opinion
If you are experiencing any symptoms that mirror those of TMD, it’s important to seek medical intervention sooner rather than later. Consult your dentist or physician, who can diagnose TMD and help you manage the condition before it becomes chronic. Also, dentists are more likely to encounter TMJ disorders in their routine clinical practice. This is one of many reasons to prioritize your biannual appointment with your dentist.