TMJ Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
TMJ Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
Is your jaw pain caused by TMJ Disorder?
Do you suffer from ear and jaw pain?
Is there an audible clicking, popping, crunching, or grinding noise when you open your jaw?
Do you experience headaches on your daily commute to school or work?
If you have any of these symptoms, you may have a temporomandibular joint disorder, or as it is more commonly abbreviated: TMD.
The Canadian Dental Association defines TMD as a problem that affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is the joint that connects your jaw bone (mandible) to your skull (temporal bone).
A TMJ disorder can be caused by:
- Damage to the jaw
- Teeth grinding
- Arthritis developing between the ages of 20 and 40
The Canadian Dental Association also lists some of the symptoms of a TMJ disorder as:
- Pain and tenderness in or around the ear, the jaw joint, or the muscles of the jaw, face or temples.
- Problems opening or closing your mouth.
- A clicking, popping, crunching, or grinding noise when you chew, yawn or open your mouth.
- Neck pain and headaches.
Some of the ways to treat TMJ pain, and a TMJ disorder, include the following:
- Jaw exercises
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- An oral splint
- TMJ surgery
What is TMJ? What is TMD?
The Mayo Clinic defines the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) as a joint that connects the skull and the jawbone. It is a hinge that enables us to eat, yawn, and open our mouths. The TMJ is covered in cartilage and separated by a small disc that absorbs the shock from repeatedly opening and closing the mouth.
TMD is a disorder that affects our TMJ. When the shock-absorbing disc in our TMJ is out of place, damaged, or is eroding, we experience a TMJ disorder, or TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder).
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) notes that TMJ disorders are at least twice as prevalent in women as men. The institute also notes that there is further evidence to suggest that women using supplemental estrogen or oral contraceptives are more likely to experience the symptoms of a TMJ disorder.
The Canadian Chiropractic Association notes that there is a common misconception when referring to pain associated with TMD: People tend to label their jaw pain as TMJ. TMJ, the joint in the skull and jawbone, is the part of the body that is affected by TMD.
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in this area, or headaches caused by jaw and ear pain, then it is best to consult us about TMD.
What causes TMD?
The Mayo Clinic lists multiple factors that can contribute to a TMJ disorder, including:
- The disc erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
- The joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact
Irritation, erosion, and improper alignment of the disc results in your jaw not being able to move smoothly and efficiently. Eating, yawning, and speaking after you have experienced problems with the disc in your TMJ will lead to TMD.
Merck, a global health care company, notes that secondary degenerative arthritis can develop in people ranging from 20 to 40 years old. This condition is caused by clenching or grinding of the teeth while asleep (nocturnal bruxism). This clenching and grinding are a cause of TMD as well, which means that the symptoms of a TMJ disorder can lead to arthritis.
Although you may think that arthritis is only something to worry about as you age, it is a very real possible outcome of a TMJ disorder.
Bad habits like nail biting and chewing on pencils or pens can also lead to TMJ pain and a possible TMD.
What are the symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
A TMD, often caused by teeth grinding, clenching, and stress can lead to sleepless nights and headaches. The European Journal of Pain notes that poor sleep correlates with elevated pain severity in chronic pain patients.
These symptoms can lead to further stress and aggravate your TMJ resulting in a circle of pain that, when left untreated, will only worsen.
Your TMJ, when affected by a TMD, will often make popping, cracking, grinding, or crunching noises when the jaw is opened. The jawbone will also lock in some cases, causing pain, discomfort, and an inability to move your mouth correctly.
How to treat TMJ Disorder?
The Sage Journal of Dental Research suggests a simple exercise as the best treatment for jaw and ear pain caused by a TMJ disorder.
- First: As a warm-up, open and close your mouth several times. Make sure to do this slowly and open your mouth only slightly – so as not to aggravate pain caused by the TMJ disorder.
- Second: Place both of your index fingers into your mouth and set each of them onto the bottom-front row of your teeth (mandibular anterior teeth). Now, push down slowly so that your jaw opens. Continue to open your jaw in this way until you experience pain in the TMJ-affected side of your jaw.
- Third: Hold this position for 30 seconds and then stop. Repeat this step another two times, while ensuring that you release pressure on your jaw after 30 seconds have passed.
- Four: Repeat the process of stretching your jaw, in 30-second sets, four times per day. Do this after each meal, and once while bathing.
The Sage Journal of Dental Research, while conducting this treatment on patients, administered a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, three times per day, as well. It is best to consult us before taking any kind of drug for pain treatment.
This exercise is shown to strengthen jaw muscles, increase mobility, promote healing, and reduce the clicking sound associated with a TMJ disorder.
The US National Library of Medicine suggests using an oral splint to treat TMD as an alternative to TMJ surgery. Surgery is often expensive, inefficient at dealing with the underlying causes of TMD, and not as effective as conservative therapy.
Book a Consultation
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a TMJ disorder, such as pain in your jaw and ears, popping sounds when you open your mouth, or headaches, then you could have TMD. If you have had any kind of impact to your jaw, and are worrying about the effects of arthritis, or disc erosion, then it is best to consult us.
Do you think that you may have a TMJ disorder? If you’d like to get our professional opinion, or if you have any questions, please feel free to call us at: (780) 425-1646.