Is it hard to open and close your mouth? Do you sometimes get lockjaw when you yawn? Persistent earache getting you down? You could be suffering from a problem with your TMJ.
TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint – the joint found on either side of the face, connecting the lower jaw to the skull. This joint is essential for the day to day use of our mouth, but a number of patients experience issues with it that cause them pain and affect their quality of life. Here’s what you need to know about the causes of TMJ disorder and how to determine if you are suffering from this condition.
We rely on the TMJ more than we realize. The joint combines a hinge action with a sliding motion that allows us to eat, drink, talk, yawn and more. However, for the joint to work properly it relies on a small disc that separates the bones. In patients with TMJ disorder, this disc is usually eroded or damaged in some way, or it has moved out of alignment.
There are some factors which are common contributors towards the development of TMJ disorder. These include:
Persistent clenching of the jaw (quite often a result of stress)
Grinding of the teeth (often subconscious or while you are asleep)
Osteoarthritis causing wear and tear to the jawbone
An uneven bite which can cause an imbalance of pressure when using the jaw
High levels of or persistent stress
Injury to the jaw as a whole
An infection in the bone
Some medical conditions including gout and fibromyalgia
However, there are instances where TMJ occurs for no discernible reason.
Fortunately, there are quite a few signs and symptoms of TMJ disorder. They can be indicative of other conditions too, so it’s important to arrange to speak to your dentist to have an assessment carried out to confirm their cause. Some of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
Clicking, popping or grinding sounds when chewing, talking or opening and closing the mouth/jaw
Pain or difficulty in opening the mouth – some people report that it feels stuck, heavy or stiff
Pain in and around the jaw. This could range from short, acute pain to persistent aching
Recurring headaches or migraines
Recurring earache, tinnitus, other strange sounds or a sensation of a foreign object stuck in the ear canal
Pain in the area in front of the ear which can spread outwards to the cheeks, temple and neck
Swelling of the jaw or face
Pain that radiates into the neck and upper back
You may actually be able to feel the joint click or get stuck
If you are experiencing these symptoms, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your dentist in Paducah at Woodyard Dental for evaluation at (270) 213-6620. There are a range of treatments that can help counteract TMJ disorder and your dentist will be able to advise you which lifestyle changes and treatments will be most beneficial based on your personal circumstances.