Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a condition that affects the jaw muscles and joints located in front of your ears. This can lead to pain, difficulty chewing, and other uncomfortable symptoms. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, it’s essential to understand what exactly TMJ is, how it develops, and how it can be treated.
The Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
The most common symptom of TMJ is pain in the jaw joint or around the ear area. Other symptoms include clicking or popping sounds when you move your jaw, headaches, neck aches, tenderness in the face, difficulty chewing, and a feeling like your bite has changed or shifted due to the misalignment of your teeth caused by the disorder.
There are also more severe symptoms of TMJ. These symptoms include extreme pain in the back extinguished, difficulty opening and closing the mouth, pain when you yawn or chew, and TMJ caused by an injury to the head or neck.
What Causes TMJ?
Several different underlying factors can contribute to the development of TMJ disorder.
Physical Trauma or Injury
One of the most common causes of TMJ disorder is physical trauma or injury to the jaw area. This could include falling and hitting your face, being in a car accident, or even having dental surgery that requires you to open your mouth wide for an extended period. If you experience any trauma or injury to your jaw area, it’s essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible to reduce your risk of experiencing TMJ symptoms later on.
Stress is another major factor that can contribute to TMJ disorder. When people’s bodies are under stress, they tend to clench their jaws unconsciously to relieve the tension they are feeling. This constant clenching and grinding can cause wear and tear on the jaw joints, leading to pain and discomfort over time. If you feel stressed out often, try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation to reduce your risk of developing TMJ disorder.
People with arthritis may be more likely than other people to develop TMJ disorder due to their weakened joints and muscles in the jaw area. If you have arthritis, speak with your doctor about ways to protect yourself from developing TMJ disorder. For example, simple exercises such as chewing gum can help strengthen the muscles and joints in your jaw area, which can help reduce your risk of developing TMJ disorder later on down the line.
Lastly, the lack of teeth in some mouth regions can lead to TMJ disorder. Missing teeth can cause stress on your remaining teeth, which may place undue strain on your jaw joint and lead to pain and discomfort over time. If you are missing any teeth, visit your local dental office. They can offer advice and guidance on the best ways to protect yourself against developing TMJ disorder, such as dental implants.
Treatment for TMJ Disorder
Thankfully, there are various treatments for TMJ. Here are some of them:
Physical therapy can help reduce pain, improve the range of motion, and restore function in the jaw joint. This therapy typically includes exercises that focus on stretching the jaw muscles and increasing their strength. In addition, physical therapists may sometimes use heat or cold packs to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist treating TMJ disorder.
For some people with TMJ disorder, medications may be prescribed to provide temporary relief from pain or inflammation. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help relieve pain associated with TMJ disorder. If your symptoms are severe or persistent, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications such as muscle relaxants or anti-anxiety drugs to help relieve discomfort.
In some cases, surgery may be recommended for people with severe cases of TMJ disorder that do not respond to other treatments. Surgery may involve realigning the jaw joint or replacing the discs between the bones in the jaw joint with artificial ones. However, surgery should only be considered after other treatments have failed to provide relief from symptoms because it carries certain risks, such as infection or nerve damage.
TMJ disorder is a condition that affects many people worldwide but doesn’t always get talked about because of its complexity and wide range of potential causes. However, understanding what causes this condition, as well as recognizing its signs, can help you take steps towards living a more comfortable life free from pain associated with this disorder. From making lifestyle changes such as avoiding certain foods that require excessive chewing to seeking out medical treatments such as physical therapy or surgery for more severe cases, there are steps you can take to manage your case of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder today!