Contrary to what some may think, TMJ is not a disorder! TMJ actually describes a hinged joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull….also known as the temporomandibular joint. This joint is flexible; which allows the jaw to move up and down or side to side. It also allows for talking, chewing, and yawning. If a person has problems with their jaw, joint, or facial muscles, then they could be experiencing TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder). This affects mostly women between the ages of 20-40, but anyone can get it at some point in their life. It can start as a temporary disorder or last for years. The cause of TMD isn’t clear, but dentists believe the symptoms arise because of the muscles of the jaws. This can be because of many things such as….injuries to the jaw, joints, head/neck muscles (whiplash, etc), grinding/clenching, dislocation of the jaw, osteoarthritis, or stress. All of these things can influence the presence of TMD.
There can be many symptoms of TMD….
-Tired feeling in the face
-Pain, tenderness in the face, shoulders, neck, or ears
-Limited ability to open, jaw locking, popping, or clicking
-Upper shoulder pain
-Ringing in the ears or hearing issues
-Headaches, neckaches, or dizziness
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you will need to first see your dentist. They will do some tests to rule out any other possibilities. They may prescribe options for pain, jaw exercises, and often a splint for sleeping. Your dentist may refer you to a specialist if they feel it’s needed. TMD continues to be a medical mystery that most are still puzzled by, but luckily most TMD can be managed if you seek professional help. -Lindi