Causes and Symptoms of TMJ

Everybody experiences pain in their jaw from time to time and that’s normal, but if you experience jaw pain and tightness on a regular basis, you may be suffering from a TMJ disorder. Your TMJ or temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones on the side of your face, and it is this joint that allows you to open and close your mouth when speaking or chewing. In some patients, issues with the TMJ can lead to pain and locking in the jaw.

It is estimated that around 25% of the population will experience TMJ disorders, many of them women between the age of 20 and 40. Every patient is different and while some people will experience mild pain that can be dealt with using simple medications, some patients experience severe pain and require more extensive TMJ treatment. If you are experiencing a lot of pain in your jaw and you think that you may be suffering from a TMJ disorder, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Kevin F. Postol immediately. Our expert team has experience in a wide range of treatments and we will work with you to find the right TMJ treatment for you.

What Are The Symptoms Of TMJ Disorders?

Although pain is one of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorders, it affects patients in a range of different ways. Common signs of a TMJ disorder include:

  • Pain and tenderness in the jaw.
  • Pain in the temporomandibular joints (in some cases, you will only experience pain on one side of the face).
  • Pain while chewing, or difficult moving the jaw while chewing.
  • Aching around the ears or in other areas of the face.
  • Swelling around the face.
  • Stiff joints or locking, which makes it difficult to open and close your mouth when eating or speaking, especially when trying to open your mouth wide.

In some cases, patients notice a clicking or popping sound when they open and close their mouth. Lots of patients experience this clicking but they don’t have any pain or difficulty opening and closing their mouth. In this case, you may not need TMJ treatment if you are willing to live with the clicking. However, if your symptoms are more severe, it is important that you schedule an appointment to come and see us right away.

When Should You Seek Medical Advice?

Many people live with a TMJ disorder for a long time before seeking medical advice because they are unsure whether they need TMJ treatment or not. In mild cases where you only experience a clicking or popping sound, without any pain, you do not necessarily need TMJ treatment. However, if you experience regular pain in the jaw, ears, or face, you should seek help. If you have trouble opening and closing your mouth and it makes it difficult to eat or speak, that is also a sign that you may need TMJ treatment. If you start to notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment right away and we can recommend the right TMJ treatment for you.

What Causes TMJ Disorder?

The short answer is, we don’t know. Unfortunately, there is no clear reason why people suffer from TMJ disorder and, in most cases, it is caused by a combination of different factors. The temporomandibular joint is made up of a hinge joint that also involves sliding actions. There is cartilage and a small shock absorbing disk in between the bones to keep the movements smooth. In many patients, TMJ disorder is caused by damage to the cartilage as a result of arthritis, or the disk wearing away or moving out of alignment. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the causes of TMJ disorder are less clear.

If you have recently sustained a head or facial injury, the impact can cause damage to the joints and that can lead to a TMJ disorder as well. This is particularly common in people that experience whiplash.

TMJ disorder can also be caused by certain habits that people have. Clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth (known as bruxism) can lead to issues with tightness and pain in the jaw. People that suffer from excess stress often clench their jaws and this may be the cause of your TMJ disorder.

Risk factors for TMJ disorder

Although anybody can suffer from TMJ disorder, there are risk factors that make it more likely in certain patients.

People that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis are more likely to develop problems with the joints in their jaw, which require TMJ treatment. Anybody that has suffered a recent jaw injury should also seek medical advice if they notice ongoing pain and stiffness. If you have a connective tissue disease, this may potentially cause problems with the temporomandibular joint as well.

Diagnosing TMJ Disorders

If you notice one or more of these symptoms and they persist for an extended period, contact us and our expert team can diagnose the issue and offer tailored TMJ treatment. There is no widely recognized method for diagnosing TMJ because the exact causes are unknown and it is often caused by a variety of factors. When you come for your appointment, our team of highly trained dental professionals will consider your symptoms and ask some simple questions about your medical history. In some cases, we may also recommend x-rays so we can examine your jaw in more detail.

Using this information, we will then recommend the best TMJ treatment for you. In many cases, changing habits like teeth grinding and taking medications to relax muscles and manage pain will be enough to deal with the issue. However, in more severe cases, we may also recommend a more advanced TMJ treatment.

Many patients live with undiagnosed TMJ disorders for a long time, and it can have a big impact on your life, making it difficult and painful to do simple everyday things, like talking and eating. But there is no need to suffer in silence because we are here to help. If you notice any of the symptoms described above, schedule an appointment with Dr. Kevin F. Postol today and we can provide the right TMJ treatment to give you the relief that you need.

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