If you are experiencing TMJ, a medical disorder in the temporomandibular joint which connects your jaw to your skull, you may be feeling pain in the chewing muscles and joints or have trouble opening and closing your mouth. You might also be hearing clicking, popping or grinding noises in your jaws and teeth.
TMJ arises when the jaw joints are inflamed, and the pain can spread to your teeth, mouth, eyes, ears, head and shoulders. This can prevent you from engaging in your day-to-day eating and speaking habits. While generally not life-threatening, TMJ can lead to chronic intense headaches, problems with chewing, and persistent pain in the jaw.
Untreated TMJ can eventually lead to medical conditions besides chronic pain. For example, if you are self-medicating to relieve your pain, you risk the harmful effects of drug and alcohol use. If your jaw pain is exacerbated by nighttime teeth grinding (bruxism), it can cause insufficient sleep, resulting in daytime fatigue and an impaired mood.
Studies have shown that people in chronic pain often become anxious and depressed, impacting other important areas of life, including work and relationships. TMJ also gradually wears down your teeth prematurely, damaging them, and leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
If jaw pain interferes with your dietary needs from the inability to chew properly, your overall health can suffer. Even your appearance can suffer from avoiding the painful side of your jaw, which then results in swelling on one side, affecting your facial muscle growth.
Ear pain is another common factor with jaw problems, such as tinnitus ringing in the ears and earaches. You may also have balance issues with vertigo (dizziness) from problems arising in the inner ear. Should the jaw “lock” up, or be stuck open or closed, you could end up in the hospital emergency room. If there is no relief for the cartilage in the jaw, eventually you could end up with jaw dislocation.
Causes of TMJ
You may find yourself with TMJ if you:
– Are missing one or more teeth
– Have malocclusion of your bite or jaw misalignment
– Find yourself constantly grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
– Sustain a trauma or injury to the jaw
– Damage your cartilage from arthritis
Sometimes these conditions are temporary, but often TMJ symptoms progressively worsen. If yours persist, treatment should be sought, especially if you experience jaw clicking. Research has shown that 70 percent of patients with painless clicking in the jaw go on to development jaw pain.
The good news is that most treatments for TMJ are noninvasive and may involve different approaches. For example, wearing an oral appliance to keep the jaw in the proper position, BOTOX® to relax the muscles, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy with stress-relieving techniques and exercises are all helpful solutions.
To avoid health complications, you should not ignore persistent TMJ symptoms. If you are concerned about your TMJ symptoms, we invite you to give our skilled team a call and schedule a consultation with our specialist. We look forward to assessing your symptoms and helping you find effective long-term pain relief.