The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a space between the jawbone and the skull, which allows the lower jaw to move freely. It is one of the most complex joints in the human body and it seems to be easily affected by stress and tension, as well as problems such as bruxism (grinding your teeth).
What is the difference between TMJ and TMD?
The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the skull and is referred to as TMJ. TMD stands for Temporomandibular Disorder, which is when the TMJ is impacted by problems that cause pain or discomfort. TMD affects one out of every 200 persons on the planet.
What causes TMJ disorder?
Temporomandibular arthritis: It may be caused by wear and tear on your joints. It usually affects both joints at once but doesn’t cause any other symptoms besides pain. These symptoms can happen at any age, but it’s more common in people over 30 years old.
Temporomandibular disorder: It is a condition that affects people of all ages. It occurs when the temporomandibular joint becomes painful due to inflammation or degeneration.
How is TMJ diagnosed?
Several things can help with the diagnosis process. The dentist will ask about the symptoms, medical history, and recent dental history. They will also examine the mouth to look for TMJ symptoms, such as uneven teeth or a misaligned bite.
The dentist will use a tool called pliers to move your jaw and see how it responds. This is a test for TMJ pain and may also be used to diagnose other conditions that can cause pain in the jaw muscles or joints.
The dentist may also ask you to bite down on an instrument called a condyle protractor with your front teeth so they can measure your jaw strength, which can be affected by TMJ disorder as well as other conditions such as arthritis.
How is TMJ treated?
The first step is to find out what your condition is and how it is currently affecting you. Is it affecting eating, sleeping, speaking, or chewing? If the TMJ disorder is causing you pain, your dentist may offer different methods of improving your condition. Treatments may include TMJ exercises, a guard for the mouth, or even surgery.
How can I prevent TMJ disorder?
There are many ways to prevent the disorder. One of the most effective ways is to reduce stress on the jaw muscles by using the right techniques when chewing food. The right kind of toothbrush can also be very important in preventing it. Using a brush with nylon bristles will cause less friction than one with hard bristles, which can lead to more irritation in the nerves and muscles of the jaw. Good posture is also significant in keeping stress away from this joint.
What will happen if TMJ disorder is not treated?
A person will experience pain when they open and close their mouth. Oftentimes, a person cannot quite reach their teeth, leading to a decline in dental health.
Several consequences can result from untreated TMJ disorder. A sufferer may experience chronic headaches, grinding teeth which leads to the loss of their natural teeth, and muscle spasms that create pain throughout the entire body. Unless it is treated promptly with physical therapy or surgery, these problems will only continue to worsen over time.
Who is more likely to develop TMJ?
Women are more prone to suffering from TMJ disorder in comparison to men. Furthermore, this issue is more prevalent among people between the age of 20 and 40.
What are the common TMJ symptoms?
It can cause great discomfort and pain, which may reach other parts of the body, such as the neck and shoulder. Furthermore, headache is another common sign of TMJ disorder. Besides that, jaw pain, earaches, locked jaws, difficulty in chewing, jaw discomfort, toothache, swelling, and tinnitus are common signs. You may also hear your jaw making a clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth.
It’s recommended to visit an experienced dentist if you encounter any of these signs for proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Can I reduce the risk of TMJ disorder?
Practicing good posture can assist in reducing symptoms. However, bear in mind that it may not work in every case.
Besides good posture, there are other pieces of advice you can follow to reduce the risk of TMJ disorder. These include wearing a night guard if you often found yourself grinding your teeth, a mouth guard when you play sports, and practicing exercises that help in reducing stress.
Can TMJ disorder cause headaches?
Yes, there have been cases where TMJ disorder has resulted in a headache. In fact, it’s a common sign of this condition. Headaches, caused by TMJ, are often accompanied by neck and shoulder pain as well.
How long does TMJ disorder last?
There’s no fixed timeline for TMJ symptoms to last. It can be a couple of days or many weeks. This depends on the patient and the severity of the condition. Having said that, one thing is certain. TMJ disorder doesn’t get cured on its own. You need to get proper treatment for this disorder so that it is completely cured.
Dr. Sue Vetter is a dental specialist in Seattle. To learn more or book your appointment, please call or visit the clinic.