TMJ Disorders Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

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Do you wake up splitting headaches or often can’t properly move your jaw when chewing or talking? You may be suffering from temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, also known as TMJ disorders. These disorders are problems or symptoms of the chewing muscles and joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull.

You will most likely need to see a dentist if you feel you have TMJ issues and they will explain the cause of the disorder. There are two matching temporormanidular joints in your mouth, one on each side of your head located in front of your ears. These joints can become irritated or misaligned due to physical stress on the structures around the joint, which include:

  • Jaw, face, and neck muscles
  • The cartilage disk located on the joint
  • Adjacent ligaments, blood vessels and nerves
  • Teeth

American dental care unfortunately does not focus enough of it’s attention on those suffering from TMJ, mostly because it is believed to be untreatable. Tooth enamel is the hardest substance found in your body, and as a result the teeth are often the number one cause of TMJ disorders.

Some common causes for these disorders include:

  • A misaligned bite (cosmetic dental work can fix this)
  • Stress and grinding the teeth (which could also wear your teeth down, causing tooth loss and making it hard to eat and embarrassing to smile

  • Poor posture, such as holding your head too far forward when looking at a monitor all day
  • Poor diet and lack of sleep

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should consult a dentist about steps to reduce TMJ, or consult a dental specialist and see if there is any cosmetic work that can be done.

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Dull, aching pain near your ears
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds if you open and close your mouth
  • Headaches, especially when you wake up in the morning
  • Lockjaw
  • Cannot open or close your mouth properly

Surveys show that 97% of adults think a quality smile is an important social aspect, but it is certainly hard to have a quality smile if you can’t open your mouth properly. You may need to see a few medical specialists about your TMJ, including a dentist, a primary care provider, and a dental specialist. Expect these steps at an exam:

  • X-rays to determine bite alignment or issues with the jawbone
  • Feeling the joint and surrounding muscles for any tenderness
  • Pressing on points to locate places of sensitivity
  • Moving the jaw side to side
  • Listening for any clicks or grinding sounds

Treatment is often very difficult because the disorder is already hard to diagnose, but some of the best treatment options include:

  • Gently stretching, relaxing, and massaging your jaw muscles on a regular basis
  • Avoiding yawning, eating tough foods (bagels), singing, and chewing gum
  • Taking anti-inflammatory pills and using hot or cold compresses
  • Psychological stress-reducing techniques
  • Purchasing a mouth guard

For more treatment and preventative measures, check out dental websites and what they recommend.

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