A lot of people don’t know much about TMJ, but it’s a condition that affects about 10 million people in the US. The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. When injured or damaged, it causes a pain disorder known as a temporomandibular joint syndrome.
Some of the symptoms associated with the disorder include jaw pain, ear pain, popping sound in the ear, clicking jaw, stiff jaw muscles, headaches, and more. TMJ may respond to home remedies such as ice packs and OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Still, TMJ is a serious condition, and in this guide, we’ll help you understand how to recognize the symptoms.
You’ll also learn what to do when you discover you may be suffering from the disorder.
What Is Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome
The TMJ syndrome is a disorder of the jaw nerves and muscles caused by inflammation to the TMJ. The inflammation causes pain when you chew, and you may experience swelling on the side of your face. Some patients also experience nerve inflammation, migraines, tooth grinding, and even dislocation of the temporomandibular joint.
What Risk Factors Are Associated With TMJ?
Risk factors associated with temporomandibular joint syndrome include poor posture. If you have poor posture, you may strain your neck muscles, which could lead to this syndrome.
Stress also increases jaw clenching and muscle tension, and chronic inflammatory arthritis may cause it as well. If you have jaw trauma or a genetic preposition to pain sensitivity, you may also be susceptible to TMJ.
What Are the Causes of TMJ?
Medical professionals are not completely certain about the causes of TMJ, but multiple factors could contribute to the disorder. It’s not clear whether some of these TMJ symptoms are a result of the illness or the cause, but they may include excessive gum chewing, teeth braces, malocclusion, or anxiety.
How Do You Identify the Signs and Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome?
The most significant sign that you may have TMJ is a pain in your jaw joint. You will experience pain just in front of your ears, but the neck, ears, forehead, and eyes may also hurt.
If you experience crepitus or jaw popping, earache, cracking sounds in the ear, headaches, and blurred vision, it may be TMJ. Some patients also experience pain at the base of their tongue, tight or stiff neck and jaw muscles. Also, pain or swelling in the temple, dizziness, shoulder pain, and difficulty chewing.
How Healthcare Professionals Diagnose TMJ
Once you decide to see a professional who treats TMJ, the healthcare provider will start by checking your medical history. There may not be specific tests conducted for TMJ, but they may ask you to see an oral and maxillofacial specialist. If not, you may see an ENT specialist, also known as an otolaryngologist.
You may have to go through a CT scan or an MRI to detect any damages to your temporomandibular joint. These will also rule out any other health conditions that have similar symptoms. Several conditions, such as sore throat and salivary gland disease, have similar TMJ symptoms.
Most temporomandibular symptoms respond very well to home remedies. You can also try out relaxation and stress reduction techniques to get rid of the inflammation. Some home remedies such as cold packs to the inflamed areas, over-the-counter medications, eating soft foods, avoiding chewing gum, essential oils, and self-stretching your jaw could all work well.
However, it may get to a point when home remedies are no longer effective. At this point, you’ll need to get treatment from a professional medical practitioner. However, you need to understand that most treatments don’t service to cure the disorder, but to offer relief and pain. Some of these treatments include dental splints, which are dental appliances. They are placed in the mouth to prevent tooth grinding and to keep teeth aligned. They closely resemble mouth guards and are fitted by jaw specialists. The practitioner may also recommend botox to relax the muscles, though you must understand that this is not an official TMJ treatment.
The doctor may also recommend physical therapy because jaw exercises are likely to improve flexibility, strengthen your muscles, and offer relief. If medical marijuana is legal in your state, your doctor may also recommend it for severe temporomandibular joint pain. You could also get behavioral management to diminish your pain intensity, or try trigger point acupuncture.
In severe cases, the doctor may also recommend surgery. The first procedure is TMJ arthroscopy, which is minimally invasive. If that doesn’t work, you may have to go through a total joint replacement.
Is TMJ Preventable?
Prevention is possible, but most people usually don’t know that they have it. The signs and symptoms can, at times, be evasive, and by the time you realize, it could be too late. Still, to prevent temporomandibular joint syndrome, it’s imperative to take care of yourself at all times.
You can avoid chewing gum, maintain proper posture, eat soft foods, avoid stress, or practice relaxation and stress reduction techniques. Also, use safety equipment to protect your jaw from fractures and damages during activities.
What Will Happen If You Fail to Get Treatment?
Severe TMJ can be quite dangerous when left untreated, and it could leave you in constant severe pain, and lead to other issues. It may lead to jaw problems, hearing loss, lopsided facial muscles, and worn out or damaged teeth. That means that if you notice the signs and symptoms and suspect you may have TMJ, you need to see a specialist.
Everything You Need to Know About TMJ
This article covers everything you need to know and understand about TMJ or temporomandibular joint syndrome. There are many signs and symptoms associated with it, but you may confuse it with other illnesses, which makes it important to see a doctor. It’s painful, uncomfortable, and will get in the way of you eating good food.
The good news is that if you catch it early, it may not become severe. If you’d like to read more insightful articles about health, please check out our blog section, where we have so much lined up for you.