Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

 

Most Common TMJ Disorders And How To Recognize Them

The temporomandibular joint is one of the more active joints in your body. It allows you to move your jaw side to side and up and down. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to talk or chew. Unfortunately, sometimes there are problems with the area that can lead to TMJ disorders.

Let’s look at what is TMJ dysfunction syndrome, its causes, and its treatments.

TMD vs TMJ

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the hinge that connects your jaw and the temporal bones in your skull.

There is also the acronym TMD, which stands for temporomandibular disorder. These often painful conditions are problems with the jaw and muscles in the face.

Since the two acronyms are very similar and deal with the same area of the body, they are often confused. Just remember that TMJ is the joint and TMD is the name for the disorders.

How Are These Disorders Diagnosed?

You might notice some TMJ-related symptoms that affect either one or both sides of your face. These symptoms may include:

  • Pain or tenderness when you speak, chew, or open your mouth wide
  • Jaws that get stuck in a position
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds
  • Tired-feeling face
  • Trouble chewing
  • Swelling in your face
  • Headaches, earaches, or toothaches
  • Hearing problems
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

If you experience these symptoms, tell your dentist. They will complete a thorough exam in order to diagnose the disorder. They may run x-rays, CT scans, or other tests.

In addition, your dentist will complete a physical exam to check your bite alignment, how your joints move and function, and check if certain movements are causing pain.

Read More:  Why You Might Be Feeling Pain in Your Jaw

Your dentist will also consider other conditions that could cause similar symptoms. This will help rule these out before diagnosing temporomandibular disorders.

Common TMJ Disorders

TMJ disorders include over 30 different conditions. Each one affects people in different ways due to which part of the TMJ is disordered. You can ask “what causes TMJ dysfunction?” in order to break down the classes of TMDs.

These classes include:

  • Disorders of the joints
  • Disorders of the chewing muscles
  • Headaches associated with a TMD

Even within these, there are a few TMJ disorders that are much more common than the others.

Jaw Clicking

If you have a TMD you may hear a clicking sound coming from your jaw when you open or close your mouth. In some cases, someone next to you may even be able to hear it.

Most of the time, you won’t feel pain with this. Unfortunately, some people do experience pain when this happens. If so, you should consult a dentist for treatment options.

Jaw Popping

Jaw popping may also be audible sometimes. However, it’s usually also painful. The popping sound is an indicator that your joint is not working properly.

Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) can both affect your jaw. Specifically, it causes damage to the cartilage in the jaw. This loss means that you don’t have enough absorption of movements in the socket.

OA tends to be indicated by joint pain and stiffness in other parts of your body. You may also experience a decreased range of motion. RA can be signalled by a loss of appetite, tiredness, and anaemia.

You will need to see a doctor if you have arthritis as it requires long-term treatment.

Dislocation

If you are suffering from a dislocated jaw, the joint has become unhinged. This is usually due to an injury. In addition to the symptoms of TMDs, you may also face bleeding, bruising, swelling, and numbness.

If you have sustained an injury to your jaw, please seek medical care as soon as possible.

Can TMJ Cause Other Health Problems?

Unfortunately, TMJ disorders don’t stop at their effects on your jaw. They can lead to other health problems as well.

TMJ and Hearing Loss

Your TMJ is adjacent to your ear. A TMJ disorder can lead to blocked Eustachian tubes. This can result in hearing loss as well as stuffiness, clogging, or pain in the ear.

Depression

There is also a link between TMJ disorder and depression and anxiety. The chronic pain caused by the disorder could lead the sufferer to develop depression.

Sleep Apnea

People with sleep apnea tend to push their lower jaw forward when sleeping to open their airways. During the night, your TMJ moves, which can put tension on the jaw. The combination of these can make the likelihood of sleep apnea even worse.

In a similar way, TMD is linked to chronic fatigue syndrome, which can make sleep apnea worse.

Treatments for TMJ

If you’re wondering “can TMJ dysfunction be cured?” Luckily, there are several treatment options available. Which treatment is best for you will depend on the severity of your TMD and the possible causes of it.

Finding a healthcare provider that can accurately diagnose and treat your disorder is key. The answer to “who treats TMJ dysfunction?” is generally a dentist. However, always make sure to choose a dentist that has experience with TMDs.

Your dentist can direct you to medicines that can help reduce discomfort. Some people have also found some relief by using mouthguards. Sometimes, you may need dental work to correct issues such as missing teeth or a bite problem.

In addition, there are some home treatment options that can relieve your symptoms. Avoiding extreme jaw movements such as singing, yelling, or chewing gum can prevent flare-ups. In addition, you can use moist heat or cold packs several times throughout the day.

You can also relieve pressure on your jaw by keeping your teeth slightly apart whenever you can. It’s also a good idea to avoid resting your chin on your hand or shoulder whenever possible. Even learning relaxation techniques can help loosen up your jaws.

Try to eat soft foods and cut your food into small pieces. This will make you chew less. Also skip on hard, crunchy, or chewy foods which will put more pressure on your jaw.

If these types of treatment options do not work, your dentist may suggest surgery or orthodontics. Not to worry, this is usually only used in the most severe situations. Many people find relief through basic treatments, or the symptoms recede over time.

The Takeaway

Now that you know the answer to “what is TMJ dysfunction syndrome?”, you will be better able to understand if your symptoms may indicate a TMD disorder. If you think you might have this condition, be sure to set up an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to prevent further pain and discomfort.

Contact Blue Haven Dental today and we will book you an appointment.