TMJ is a common disorder of the jaw. It affects the temporomandibular joints, the place on each side of your face where the lower jaw connects to your head. These joints work like hinges to allow you to open and close your mouth. TMJ disorder occurs when there is irritation or inflammation of one or both of these joints.
Do you think you might have TMJ disorder? Here are the common signs and symptoms used to identify this condition.
Where Are the TMJ Located?
The temporomandibular joints are located right in front of the opening of your ears in most cases. Place your fingers on the sides of your face in front of your ears and open and close your mouth. As you move your jaw you should feel your TMJ working beneath your skin. If you move your fingers up to your temples, you may feel the muscles and ligaments moving that control the movement of your jaw.
Signs and Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
The following signs and symptoms are often indicative of TMJ disorder:
- Pain in your TMJ. Inflammation of the temporomandibular joints can cause them to hurt when chewing, talking, or even when you aren’t moving your jaw.
- Pain in your jaw. You may also experience pain in other parts of your jaw or across your entire jaw, especially when chewing.
- Headaches. It is common to get headaches from TMJ disorder, especially in the temple region of the head.
- Ear pain. The TMJ is close to the ear canal, which can cause the pain to resonate in the ears. Patients often mistake the pain for an ear infection.
- Limited movement of your jaw. TMJ disorder can make it difficult to open and close your mouth. You may find that you can’t open your mouth as widely as you could before. In some cases your teeth may not meet together when you bite down.
- Popping or clicking sound when moving your jaw. Inflammation and misalignment of the TMJ can cause the ligaments to slide over the bones, resulting in a popping or clicking sound as you move your jaw. In severe cases the bones may be grinding together if the disc has slipped out of place in the joint.
- Neck pain. Some of the muscles that control the TMJ wrap around the sides of your neck, which means that inflammation and tension can cause pain in your neck.
- Muscle tension in the face. TMJ disorder can cause the muscles in your face to tense up and feel tight or sore.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
There are a few possible causes of TMJ disorder, including:
- Teeth grinding. Chronic teeth grinding puts pressure on the TMJ, resulting in inflammation and pain.
- Excessive chewing. If you are constantly chewing gum or snacking, the excessive movement of your jaw can irritate the TMJ.
- Chewing hard or chewy foods. Chewing on particularly hard or chewy foods can put excess pressure on the TMJ and cause irritation.
- Chewing non-food items. Biting or chewing things that are not food, such as pens or pencils, or removing tags or opening things with your teeth, can cause TMJ problems.
- Injury to the face or jaw. A blow to the face or jaw can strain the TMJ or cause misalignment of the joint.
- Arthritis. Arthritis is a general inflammation of the joints that can also affect the TMJ.
- Autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases cause inflammation, which can sometimes affect various joints in the body, including the TMJ.
Getting a Professional Diagnosis
If you have any of the above symptoms, you may have TMJ disorder. To get a formal diagnosis it is best to have an evaluation by a dentist. R. Renan Williams, DDS provides diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorder. We get to the source of your symptoms, providing long term solutions to keep TMJ from coming back.