TMJ Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) plays the role of a sliding hinge by connecting jawbone to the skull. Everyone has a joint on each side of their jaw. TMJ disorder causes pain in the muscles and jaw joint that control jaw movement. The specific cause of a TMJ disorder is normally hard to determine. The pain could be due to a mixture of factors such as jaw injury, arthritis, and genetics. Also, some people with jaw pain tend to grind or clench their teeth even though not everyone develops TMJ disorder as a result of that. In some situations, the discomfort and pain linked with TMJ disorders is short-term and can be relieved with nonsurgical treatments or self-managed care. Normally, surgery is the last resort after conventional measures have failed.

Symptoms

TMJ disorders have different signs and symptoms which include:

  • Tenderness and pain in your jaw
  • Pain in one or both temporomandibular joints
  • Aching pain around and inside your ear
  • Pain or difficulty when chewing
  • Aching facial pain
  • Joint locking, making it hard to close or open the mouth

Also, TMJ disorders can cause a grating sensation or clicking sound when you chew or open your mouth. But if there is no problem in movement or pain associated with your jaw clicking, you may not need treatment.

Causes

The temporomandibular joint combines sliding motions with hinge action. This involves some parts of the bones that are covered with cartilage and split by a small shock-absorbing disk which ordinarily keeps the movement smooth. Painful TMJ disorders may occur if:

  • The disk moves or erodes from its proper alignment
  • The joint is damaged by impact or a blow
  • The joint cartilage is destroyed by arthritis

Other causes include:

  • Physical injury
  • Clenching or grinding the teeth during sleep
  • Dental surgery
  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections

However, in some cases the cause of a TMJ disorder is never really clear.

Risk Factors

Some factors increase the chances of developing TMJ disorders. These include:

  • Some kinds of arthritis such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Long-term clenching of teeth or chronic grinding
  • Particular connective tissue diseases that bring problems that may influence the temporomandibular joint

What Should I Do for TMJ Disorders?

TMJ disorders are usually not critical and tend to disappear after some months. Symptoms are regularly mild and normally cause minimal inconvenience. However, in some circumstances, TMJ disorders are long-lasting and serious, and if the condition affects the quality of life, there is a need for immediate diagnosis and treatment to resolve or manage the condition. If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of a TMJ disorder, whether mild or serious, getting advice from a professional, such as a doctor or dentist, can help.

Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care

Some lifestyle changes can minimize the motion of the jaw, and help reduce the discomfort you may experience when dealing with a TMJ disorder. These can include:

  • Eating only soft foods
  • Avoiding chewing gum
  • Avoiding tensing or clenching the jaw

Seeing a Doctor

If you suffer from persistent tenderness or pain in your jaw, or if you cannot close or open your jaw completely, seek medical attention. Your TMJ specialist, dentist, or doctor can discuss possible treatments and causes of your problem. For more information on TMJ disorders, or to make an appointment, contact the office of Dr. Larry D. Molenda, a dentist in San Marcos, TX.