• Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is a painful condition that affects the joint connecting the lower jaw to the skull.
• Common symptoms of TMJ include pain, headaches/migraines, tinnitus, and sleep issues.
• Risk factors of TMJ include physical trauma, arthritis, and stress.
• Treatments for TMJ may include lifestyle changes, dental visits, and in severe cases, surgery.
• If you think you may be suffering from TMJ, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and get an accurate diagnosis.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) can be a painful condition that affects the joint connecting your lower jaw to the temporal bone of your skull. It is estimated that over 10 million Americans suffer from this disorder, and while it is treatable, it still significantly impacts those who live with it. Here’s a look at four ways TMJ can affect your life.
Pain and Discomfort
One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is a pain in the jaw area. This pain can range from mild discomfort to more severe aches that can last for days or weeks.
Some people describe this as feeling like their jaw is “stuck” or “locked” in place, making it difficult to move the jaw or open their mouths wide enough for daily activities such as eating or speaking. Pain medications may help alleviate some of these symptoms, but in many cases, they don’t always provide complete relief.
Headaches and Migraines
Another common symptom of TMJ is headaches or migraines. Many sufferers report experiencing regular headaches or migraines caused by tension in the muscles around the jaw joint. These headaches often lead to fatigue and difficulty concentrating due to lack of sleep caused by chronic pain. These headaches can sometimes become so severe that they interfere with daily activities like working or school.
Tinnitus is another symptom associated with TMJ disorder, described as ringing in the ears. This occurs when there are spasms in the muscles near your temporomandibular joint, causing a sensation similar to an electrical shock running through your ear canal each time you move your mouth or chew food. This symptom can be very irritating and distracting, making it difficult to focus on tasks such as studying or working.
TMJ pain can also lead to sleep issues. The physical discomfort combined with stress and anxiety about the condition can make it hard for sufferers to get a good night’s rest. Additionally, many grind their teeth while they sleep without even realizing it—a habit known as bruxism—which only exacerbates the problem further.
Risk Factors of TMJ
Not everyone is vulnerable to TMJ. However, there are some risk factors you still need to know.
Physical trauma is one of the most common causes of TMJ. For example, if you experience a direct blow to your chin or jaw, like in a car accident or sports injury, this can result in TMJ.
Moreover, if you grind or clench your teeth regularly, this can strain the temporomandibular joint and lead to TMJ.
TMJ has been linked to several types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. These conditions cause inflammation in joints throughout your body, and when they involve the temporomandibular joints, they can lead to TMJ symptoms.
Additionally, some people are born with structural defects in their jaws that may increase their chances of developing TMJ later in life from arthritis or other causes.
Stress is essential for many medical conditions; it’s no different for TMJ! When people are stressed, their bodies tense up as a response—including their muscles too! For example, tight facial muscles can put extra pressure on the temporomandibular joints, increasing your chance of developing TMJ. In addition, stress will worsen existing symptoms and make them more challenging to manage for those already suffering from TMJ.
Thankfully, there are known treatments and remedies for TMJ, ranging from lifestyle changes to alternative medicine.
Making specific lifestyle changes can help manage your TMJ symptoms. For example, avoiding hard or chewy foods, using a soft toothbrush, and learning to relax the jaw muscles can reduce pain and discomfort. Additionally, many people find relief by using moist heat to relax their jaw muscles and reduce inflammation.
There are some treatments that your local dentist can provide to help reduce TMJ symptoms. They may suggest a bite guard or splint to prevent you from grinding or clenching your teeth, as well as night guards for those who grind their teeth while sleeping. Additionally, jaw exercises and physical therapy may be suggested to help relax the jaw muscles and improve the range of motion.
In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct a structural defect in the jaw or repair damaged tissues. Surgery is usually only considered when all other treatments have failed and should not be taken lightly. Significant risks associated with any surgery must be weighed carefully before deciding.
These are just a few ways that TMJ can affect your life and the treatments available to manage it. If you think you may be suffering from TMJ, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and get an accurate diagnosis. Then, you can find relief and continue living a comfortable and healthy life with proper treatment.