You open your mouth to yawn and feel like someone hit you in the jaw. Did you tear something? Is it serious? As alarming as the sounds and painful symptoms are, TMJ is not life-threatening.
If you think you may be suffering from temporomandibular joint dysfunction, read on to learn about the causes, symptoms and possible treatment options.
What Is TMJ?
TMJ is short for a temporomandibular joint disorder, although it’s also known as TMD. Before getting into the condition, it’s important that you know what it affects. The joint that is affected is the temporomandibular joint. This particular joint is what helps connect the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. It’s what enables people to move their jaw so they can yawn, chew and talk.
What Are The Causes?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive cause of TMD. However, some dentists speculate that symptoms appear when there is a problem with muscles in the jaw or the joint itself. Suffering from any injuries to the jaw or muscles in the neck, such as whiplash, can lead to TMD.
Here is a list of a few other causes:
– Adding pressure to the joint through clenching your teeth
– Having arthritis within the joint
– Movement between the ball and socket of the joint
What Are The Symptoms?
As with any ailment, there are symptoms involved with a temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
These symptoms include:
– Pain in the face, neck around the ear or joint area
– One side of the face is swelling
– The face can have a tired feeling
– There are popping or clicking sounds in the jaw when opened
– Shoulder pain
Some people may experience ringing in the ears and hearing problems if the condition is severe.
How Is It Diagnosed?
In order to figure out the problem, you’re going to have to see a dentist. Once there, the dentist is going to ask about your medical history and have you undergo a physical exam. The dentist begins by checking the joints of your jaw for any tenderness and pain. They’ll also listen for any sounds your mouth can make such as clicking or popping when it’s moved. After checking if your jaw locks when it opens and closes, the dentist may take a few x-rays in order to look at your jaw, joints and teeth for any other ailments.
Should the case be severe, you may have to be referred to an oral surgeon to get the problem fixed.
What Are The Treatment Options?
TMD is far from untreatable. There are some treatments that can be done at home and some that requires the attention of a doctor. However, it’s highly recommended that you seek out medical help when you’re suffering from a TMD. Taking painkillers such as aspirin and drinking hot tea is only a temporary solution.
Most TMD’s are treated with a custom dental tool. They are similar to mouth guards and can significantly help prevent the symptoms of a TMD. In addition, they are also non-invasive, making them one of the best ways to treat this problem.
Another common form of TMD treatment is physical therapy. Therapy may include doing various jaw, face and mouth exercises. Some therapy treatments may also utilize hot and cold compresses in order to eliminate the stiffness and alleviate the pain within the temporomandibular joint. Your therapist will create a special type of plan, depending on the type of symptoms you’re exhibiting.
Don’t be alarmed if you have a TMD as it is a very common ailment. However, if left untreated, the condition can become very severe, which may require surgery. If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms that we’re listed, see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis.