The Temporomandibular Joint (often referred to as the TMJ), is the joint that connects your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull. TMJ disorder occurs when this joint becomes injured or damaged. When this happens the patient experiences difficulties using the muscles responsible for chewing, as well as problems with the functionality of their jaw. Some estimates suggest that as many as 30% of adults will experience TMJ disorder at some point during their lifetime, and although it is not usually a serious condition, the symptoms can make a significant impact on the quality of life of the sufferer.

What causes TMJ Disorder?

The TMJ itself works by combining a hinge action and a sliding motion. The movement relies on a small disc that separates the cartilage-covered bones. Some research suggests that TMJ disorder can be caused by erosion or damage to this disc, or if it moves out of its proper alignment.

Other suggested causes for the condition include:

  • Persistent clenching of the jaw (quite often a result of stress)

  • Grinding of the teeth (often subconscious or while you are asleep)

  • Osteoarthritis causing wear and tear to the jaw bone

  • An uneven bite which can cause an imbalance of pressure when using the jaw

  • Stress

  • Injury to the jaw as a whole

  • An infection in the bone

  • Some medical conditions including gout and fibromyalgia

However, for some sufferers, TMJ disorder appears out of nowhere and medical experts are unable to find a specific cause.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

There are a variety of symptoms associated with TMJ disorder, and it is possible for a sufferer to experience just one or a combination of them. Signs to look out for include:

  • Clicking, popping or grinding sounds when chewing, talking or opening and closing the mouth/jaw

  • Pain or difficulty in opening the mouth – some people report that it feels stuck, heavy or stiff

  • Pain in and around the jaw. This could range from short, acute pain to persistent aching

  • Recurring headaches, blurred vision or migraine

  • Recurring earache, tinnitus, other strange sounds or a sensation of a foreign object stuck in the ear canal

  • Pain in the area in front of the ear which can spread outwards to the cheeks, temple and neck

  • Swelling of the jaw or face

  • Pain that radiates into the neck and upper back

If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, you could be experiencing TMJ disorder. Thankfully there are therapies that can help to alleviate the condition. While we dont specialize in this practice here at Teeth Next Day, it is important to know about the disorder, how to treat it and the steps moving forward.