The hinge connecting the upper and lower jaws is one of the most complex joints in the human body. It’s capable of a wide range of motion: up and down, back and forth, side to side. It fulfills a number of vital functions around eating, speaking, and breathing. With that in mind, any disorder or problem with that joint can have a serious negative impact on overall health and well-being.
TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint disorder, the fancy medical term for a malfunction of the jaw hinge joint. This can take a variety of forms, but some of the most common symptoms include:
- Headaches/migraines, earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
- A clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth
- Pain while yawning, opening the mouth widely, or chewing
- Jaws that “get stuck,” or lock up
- Tenderness of the jaw or facial muscles
- A sudden change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together when the mouth is opened and closed
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, contact us. It’s possible that you have TMJ or another disorder and that you’ll need treatment for it. Treatment can take a variety of forms, depending on the cause of your TMJ. Sometimes the root cause is stress, and various relaxation techniques or counseling might be in order. Sometimes TMJ is caused by teeth grinding, and your dentist may fit you with a mouthpiece to wear at night in order to prevent that. If the cause is muscle tension, your dentist may suggest a muscle relaxant or the application of mild heat to loosen the muscles involved. In some cases the cause of TMJ may be a physical disorder or misalignment of the jaw. In that case surgery may be required, and your dentist will explain what the correct procedure is and what it entails when that time comes.
TMJ can cause so many problems and so much discomfort, but it’s generally treatable. If you have any of the above symptoms, please contact your dentist and begin pursuing the right course of action for you.