TMJ: Answering Common Questions

The internet is full of great information about medical conditions newly discovered and old. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome) you may be overwhelmed with what you can find online. Here is a simplified list of TMJ-related information for the questions you likely have about your diagnosis.

  • What is the Temporomandibular Joint??

You may know what TMJ stands for but do you know the importance of the joint? The joint affected by this syndrome or disorder literally connects your jaw to your skull. You, of course, use this joint quite a bit in your everyday life. This is why TMJ can be so debilitating for people. 

The joint is connected to many nerves in your face. When there is stress on the joint it sends messages to these nerves which is what causes the pain.

There are many different symptoms of TMJ. Those symptoms include: jaw pain, jaw clicking or popping, locking of the jaw, popping or pain in the ears, pain in your temple area, migraines (often called a TMJ headache), or just general soreness of the jaw. If you experience these symptoms on a regular basis, you will want to talk to your doctor about TMJ.

People often overlook the possibility because they are able to treat the symptoms with pain relievers or ice packs. It is still a good idea to talk to your doctor as they may have a more permanent or effective remedy.

  • Well, how did I get it??

People are often surprised at what can be the cause of TMJ. The most obvious cause is direct trauma to your jaw. If you have a specific injury related to your jaw, that is likely the cause of the pain, but it is even more common to develop the problem through clenching or grinding your teeth.This may be due to a jaw that is misaligned. This can be fixed by getting braces or aligners at a young age or even later in life. An overbite or underbite left untreated can end up being more of a pain than you think! 

  • Can it get worse?

Unfortunately, TMJ just keeps getting worse over time.  Your teeth are affected by clenching and this can lead to more cavities and unnecessary tooth loss. Furthermore, since this is a joint we are talking about, you can also develop arthritis due to TMJ.

  • What do I do now?

If you have these symptoms, but you have yet to be diagnosed, the first thing you must do is speak with a dental professional.  A mouth guard is a common and relatively inexpensive way to stop the problem.  However, it is also possible that stress or emotional illness is contributing to your problem. In this case, you may also want to seek help from your doctor or therapist.  Finally, you can ask for physical therapy, go for massages, or even try acupuncture.  It is definitely worth stopping the pain, and, even more so, it’s worth preventing the bigger problems that occur if TMJ goes untreated. 

You do not have to live withTMJ pain for the rest of your life, but you do have to be proactive. With the right mouthguard, you could be pain free in a few months. The bottom line is to also seek a professional’s opinion as early as you can!

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