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FAQs About TMJ

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Temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly called TMJ or TMD, is a painful condition that affects a person’s jaw joint and the muscles around it. While some may believe it is a condition that causes lockjaw, that isn’t exactly correct. We can explain some common misconceptions with simple answers to frequently asked questions.

Question: What exactly is TMJ?
Answer: TMJ properly refers to the two jaw joints that work together as a pair. One sits in front of each ear, connecting the lower jaw to the temporal bone on each side of your head. Muscles inside the joints allow the jaw to move up, down, from side to side, and backward and forward.

Question: What are the signs of TMJ disorder?
Answer: The most obvious sign of TMJ is clicking or popping of the jaw joint. It may occur with or without pain, and you may be able to hear the joints move, grate, or pop. If you experience pain when you speak, yawn or chew, it could be TMJ disorder. Trouble opening or closing your jaw or a sudden change in bite may occur, where your teeth don’t fit together properly as they did previously. Favoring one side of your jaw or speaking out of one side of your mouth could also indicate that you have a TMJ disorder. It can be scary if these changes begin to occur suddenly and without warning, but your dentist can help ease your concerns and answer any questions you may have.

Question: What types of pain symptoms come with TMJ disorder?
Answer: TMJ symptoms include neck pain, headaches, and shoulder pain. This is because one major nerve called the trigeminal nerve runs along the majority of your neck and face, triggering migraines and other pain in the area. Some headaches are so severe that nausea and vomiting have been reported along with dizziness.

Question: Are there any other symptoms?
Answer: Some patients have symptoms that seem unrelated, like ringing in their ears or dizziness. Facial pain and migraines can be signs of TMJ. Millions of people suffer from chronic headaches and jaw pain and never know it is TMJ. Your face or mouth could have swelling on one or both sides, and muscle spasms can make it difficult to swallow.

Question: What causes TMJ disorders?
Answer: Bruxism, malocclusion (a bad bite or misaligned jaw), and trauma to the face and jaw are all things that can cause TMJ. If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw a lot, it can lead to TMJ as well as make your jaw muscles tighter, and they can go into muscle spasms if your jaw gets misaligned even the slightest bit.

Question: How will TMJ affect me over time?
Answer: TMJ disorder can, over time, make it difficult to speak, eat, or even yawn.

Question: Is there treatment for TMJ?
Answer: Treatment options for TMJ vary from muscle exercises to medical intervention. Bite splints are often recommended for those who suffer from TMJ disorder, as it stabilizes the jaw joints and gives them time to heal. Bite splints also stop you from further damaging your teeth and joints if you’re a teeth clencher or jaw grinder.

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