Whether you seem to be suffering from frequent headaches or ear pain, many people neglect to consider that they may have a TMJ disorder. In fact, there are about 10 to 30 million people struggling with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder at any given moment. This joint is in charge of connecting your jaw to your skull. It’s used to chew, yawn, eat, and talk. When any part of this joint – whether it be the ligaments, muscles, tissues, or even the bones – becomes dislocated or aggravated in any way, TMJ disorder is often the outcome.
What leads to TMJ disorder or a flare-up?
Your TMJ is used as a sort of hinge that allows your jaw to move in the ways you choose. TMD, or the disorder that causes discomfort in your jaw, can be caused by a variety of problems. The parts of the TMJ that interact to create mobility are covered in cartilage and are separated by a disc. This disc keeps movement painless and smooth, but painful symptoms can arise when there are issues with the disc:
- If you take a blow to the face, this can displace the disc.
- If you suffer from arthritis, the disc and the cartilage surrounding can be damaged.
- If the disc moves out of proper alignment, this can lead to discomfort.
All of these can be brought about in different ways, including bruxism (teeth grinding), poor posture, arthritis, stress, infections, or trauma to the face, jaw, and teeth.
What are the symptoms?
There are many symptoms of TMD, so be sure to contact your Thiensville dentist when you first experience any of these symptoms:
- Jaw clicking – While this may not be particularly painful, it can still be irritating, and it is often caused by a displaced disc. The popping sound comes from the ball and socket joints touching, when normally, they should be separated by cartilage.
- Headaches or migraines – One of the most common symptoms of a TMJ disorder is a headache. Headaches caused by TMJ disorder are called tension headaches, and they are often described as a ring of pressure around your head, or as pain concentrated in one location, like you are wearing something too tight on your head.
- Jaw pain – Jaw pain can be extremely frustrating, but it’s a good indicator of a TMJ disorder. While this does not sound like a positive, it means that you can move onto treatment! A trained specialist, such as Dr. Dale Rottman, DDS, will be able to identify your disorder quickly and help you develop a plan to decrease the pain.
- Lockjaw – This condition means that normal opening and closing of the jaw in inhibited or painful. It is important to note that lockjaw is sometimes associated with tetanus, so if it is possible that you have contracted tetanus, please go to an emergency room immediately. However, if you are up-to-date on your vaccinations, lockjaw is more of an irritation and side effect of a TMJ disorder.
- Tinnitus – Tinnitus, or “ringing in your ears” is a common symptom of TMJ that is hard to identify and treat. This often is a result of your bite being strained, meaning that the jaw is not properly aligned. If this is the problem, your dentist can work with the bite and realign it to help your jaw work cohesively.
- Sensitive and sore teeth – If your TMJ is causing you to grit your teeth or bite down harder than you intend, your teeth may be feeling a little bit sensitive. The issue is, oftentimes these teeth are perfectly healthy – it’s the jaw that is causing you issues. Make sure you see a dentist who understands TMJ so you can receive proper treatment.
- Sleep apnea – Your jaw’s placement can actually affect your breathing as you sleep, which when obstructed, can lead to sleep apnea. If you know you struggle with sleep apnea (or your partner knows you do), then it’s time to see a dentist.
Hope is not lost! Once you have received an official TMJ diagnosis, we can create a treatment plan that will keep you on track and moving forward towards a happier jaw. Contact the professionals at Dr. Dale Rottman, DDS, to learn more about our services and how we may be able to help you recover from your jaw pain.