The Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis for TMJ Disorders

The Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis for TMJ Disorders

TMJ in full stands for temporomandibular joint, which is a joint that is positioned on both sides of the head at the front of the ears. The joint acts as a hinge that connects the jawbone to the skull, and there is a cartilage disk positioned in between the bones that is soft and acts like a cushion so that the joint moves smoothly.

The TMJ opens and closes the mouth as it behaves in a manner similar to a door hinge. It also creates the sliding motion that moves the lower jaw forward and down. This sliding motion is known as translation and aids the TMJ in its side-to-side, forward, and backward movement facilitating common actions like singing, yawning and eating.

How the TMJ Can Be Affected

Just like the other joints of the body, the TMJ can get fractured, swell up, and become sore. When this happens, the pain will radiate to the neck and head area, limiting the lower jaw movement.

Although the chances of a fracture occurring at the articular disc are minimal, the disc can get displaced, causing swelling and severe pain. Unlike the hip and knee joint, TMJ is rarely affected by arthritis, but if it is, treatment becomes a challenge, especially if anti-inflammatory drugs are to be used alone.

  • Arthritis
  • Jaw injury
  • Genetics
  • Joint erosion
  • Structural jaw issues that were present from birth
  • People who are also known to grind or clench their teeth habitually can experience jaw pain, especially if they have misaligned teeth. (this occurrence is rare)

The Symptoms

Statistics show that TMJ disorders are common in people who are aged between 20-40, and it affects women more than men. Below are the symptoms associated with the disorder:

  • Chewing difficulties or feeling pain when chewing
  • Facial pain
  • Jaw tenderness or pain
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Neck pain
  • Popping, grating, or clicking sounds that arise from the site of the TMJ when you close or open your mouth
  • Stiffness in jaw muscles
  • Malocclusion – This refers to a condition where the jaw shifts changing the alignment of the lower and upper teeth.
  • Swelling on one side of the face

The Diagnosis of TMJ

Various medical conditions such as gum disease, tooth decay, arthritis, or sinus problems exhibit similar symptoms to that of a TMJ disorder. To determine what’s triggering yours, your dentist at Dental Impressions clinic in Chicago will request your medical history and will also carry out a physical examination.

The practitioner will listen for any pops or clicking sounds when you move your jaws. He/she will also check the jaw joints for any signs of pain and tenderness. Your bite will also be tested to ensure the facial muscles are free of problems.

Your dentist might request a for a full-face X-ray to view the jaws, teeth, and temporomandibular joints. Other tests such as computer tomography or MRI scan may also be conducted to show the position of your TMJ disc.

If you get booked for surgery, you’ll be referred to a maxillofacial surgeon for treatment and further care. A maxillofacial surgeon is a doctor who has specialized in jaw, face, and mouth surgery.

Home Remedies for TMJ

  1. Use over-the-counter pain relievers to relieve swelling and muscle pain.
  2. Avoid eating hard foods.
  3. Apply cold packs of ice for at least 10 minutes on the side of the face that is experiencing pain.

How to Keep Your TMJ in Excellent Health

Just like your teeth, TMJ warrants a visit to the dentist or dental hygienist every once in a while. This helps to prevent the occurrence of future complications. People who have worn out enamel due to a TMJ disorder can reverse the process by properly brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste.

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