Approximately 10 million people in America have experienced or currently have TMJD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) with a higher percentage of women than men. This disorder often involves pain in the jaw and the muscles in the face that control it and are known as temporomandibular disorders (or TMD). This discomfort and pain can impact one or both sides of the face; while it is often temporary, it can also last for years.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a sliding hinge connecting your jaw to the skull’s temporal bones. These bones sit in front of each ear and allow your jaw to move up and down and side to side. It is also the mechanism that enables you to speak, chew and yawn. You may feel pain when you perform those jaw movements if there are underlying problems with the joints.
TMJ may also be used to indicate a group of health issues that are related to the jaw and is often called TMD or TMJD to differentiate it from the temporomandibular joint itself stemming from TMJ disorders. For those who have TMD or TMJD, tenderness in the joint can be accompanied by facial pain along with problems moving the joint. You could experience headaches, neck aches, toothaches, earaches, and even upper shoulder pain or ringing in your ears, more commonly known as tinnitus.
While treatment is readily available, the cause of your problem can vary, making diagnosing the issue a challenge. It is not always known what precisely is causing the TMJ issues because of these variables. It can be difficult to narrow down the exact cause of TMJ problems if it is arising from a combination of factors.
TMJ Issues Can Stem From:
– Trauma afflicting the joint or the jaw, manifesting in pain and discomfort (myofascial pain)
– Arthritis causing inflammation or a degenerative disorder in the TMJ
– Having a dislocated jaw, a displaced disc or an injury to the condyle (the part of the mandible that fits into the joint space and protects it from damage during movement)
– Bruxism (jaw clenching and teeth grinding stemming from stress)
– Heredity (being born with structural defects in the jaw)
Many times, jaw and facial pain is temporary and can be relieved through the application of self-care such as a soft diet, OTC pain and inflammation relievers, ice or heat packs, and facial/jaw exercises for relaxation. However, should you find yourself with persistent pain and discomfort – particularly if you can’t fully open or close your jaw – you should seek medical attention. Our TMJ specialist will work with you to pinpoint the cause and offer treatment for pain relief. Diagnostic tools might include taking dental X-rays, a CT scan, an MRI or TMJ arthroscopy.
If you have pain in your jaw, ear, or face, hear clicking and popping sounds when you talk or chew, or your jaws get stuck when you open or close them, please give us a call to speak to our specialist and have your symptoms evaluated. You don’t need to suffer from daily chronic pain!