TMJ disorder is a health condition affecting the jaw. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, which is the place where your lower jaw connects with your skull. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments in this joint can become inflamed and cause TMJ disorder.
How do you know when you have TMJ disorder? Here are the common signs and symptoms and the best treatment options.
Obvious Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
Some symptoms of TMJ disorder make sense and can be easily traced to the jaw, such as:
- Pain in the jaw. If you experience jaw pain, especially in the joint where your lower jaw attaches to your head, you most likely have TMJ disorder.
- Limited range of motion in the jaw. Do you feel as if you can’t open your jaw as wide as you should be able to? This is a sign of TMJ disorder. The joint isn’t operating correctly, limiting the range of motion in your jaw.
- Clicking or popping sound when opening and closing your jaw. Do you notice a clicking or popping sound when you open and close your mouth, talk, or chew your food? This is a definite sign of
- TMJ disorder. The popping or clicking is likely due to the tendons and ligaments that are slipping against the bone, or the jaw bone grinding against the skull.
Less Obvious Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
Some symptoms of TMJ disorder are more difficult to pinpoint. Many of these symptoms have other causes as well, making it less obvious that TMJ disorder is present.
- Headaches. Headaches can happen for any number of reasons. But if you mostly feel pain in your temples, it may be a symptom of TMJ disorder.
- Pain in the neck and upper back. You probably wouldn’t expect that pain in the neck or upper back could be related to your jaw, but often it is. The tendons from your jaw stretch down the sides of your neck. If they are inflamed, the pain can reach all the way to your upper back.
- Ear issues. The TMJ joint is very close to the ear cavities, which can cause some confusion when it comes to diagnosing TMJ disorder. Many patients will experience ear pain, a ringing in the ears, or even a feeling that the ears are full or clogged. Often it is thought to be an ear infection, when it is actually symptoms of TMJ disorder.
- Dizziness or lack of balance. Related to the ear issues, dizziness or lack of balance can result from an inner ear issue. The swelling and inflammation of TMJ disorder can affect the ears and cause inner ear symptoms that can be easily misdiagnosed.
- Dental issues. If your teeth are cracking or showing signs of excessive wear, it could mean that you are clenching or grinding your teeth. Difficulty in chewing and eating? Loss of teeth? This is often a precursor to TMJ disorder. When you are constantly clenching your teeth it puts strain on your jaw at the TMJ.
- Facial pain. Sometimes you feel pain in other parts of your face besides just the jaw. The cheeks and forehead will often feel sore when TMJ disorder is present.
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers. This one is particularly puzzling. Why would your hands and fingers feel numb if the problem is in your jaw? Because anytime you have irritated muscles they are prone to spasms, which can pinch nerves and lead to numbness in other areas of the body, especially the hands.
What to Do if You Have TMJ Symptoms
If you experience any of these symptoms or a combination, you should contact both your dentist and your primary care physician to make sure you consider all of the possible options. In many cases TMJ disorder can be treated at home with ice, soft foods, and gentle movement of your jaw. In severe cases it may be necessary to take anti-inflammatory medications, get Botox injections, or use a stabilization splint. In some cases surgery is necessary, such as a jaw joint replacement procedure.
Visit Dr. Brian K. Dennis, DDS for a Consultation
It can be difficult to diagnose a TMJ disorder. If you notice any of the above symptoms, contact Dr. Brian K. Dennis, DDS to schedule a consultation. Dr. Dennis specializes in diagnosing and treating TMJ disorders. We will work hard to treat your condition without surgery, if possible.