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5 Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder

Your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are the joints that connect your jawbone to your skull. You have identical temporomandibular joints located in front of your ears on both sides of your face. The joints act like hinges and allow you to move your jaw sideways and up and down. TMJ disorders can cause a wide range of pain and interfere with the normal use of your mouth when chewing and speaking. 

You’re not alone if you develop a TMJ disorder. At any given time, TMJ disorders affect about 12% of Americans, or about 35 million people. While the condition affects both men and women, it’s more common in women. A TMJ disorder can occur as the result of many factors, including trauma, arthritis, a structural misalignment, or habitual teeth grinding or clenching. For some people, TMJ disorders occur without obvious causes. 

 Since TMJ disorders are associated with a wide range of causes and characteristics, finding the source of your pain requires a professional examination. TMJ specialist Trent W. Smallwood, DDS, of the Centre for Contemporary Dental Concepts in Tempe, Arizona, provides expert diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders. In this blog, Dr. Smallwood discusses five of the most common symptoms associated with TMJ disorders. 

  1. Jaw pain

One of the most common symptoms of a TMJ disorder involves jaw pain or soreness. This is often described as a dull, aching pain that comes and goes, though many people experience it as excruciating pain. 

Jaw pain can occur when the muscles that control jaw movement are strained and inflamed by the TMJ disorder. The pain may be more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon. 

  1. Difficulty chewing

A TMJ disorder can affect your ability to open or close your mouth fully. Without normal control of your mouth, you may experience difficulty chewing. 

Since the normal actions involved with chewing strain your temporomandibular joints, you may experience pain as you chew with a TMJ disorder. You may limit this strain by avoiding hard or chewy foods that make your jaw work harder. When discomfort is extreme, you may be unable to chew at all.

  1. Facial pain 

Your temporomandibular joints work together with a complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones to support the movements necessary for speaking and chewing. When a temporomandibular joint is damaged, the condition can affect your facial nerves and cause pain when you open, close, or move your jaw in any way. Facial pain can also occur without movement. 

Facial pain from a TMJ disorder can extend along the side of your neck, head, temple, cheek, lower jaw, and teeth. In addition to the pain, you may also experience a tired feeling in your face similar to a toothache. 

  1. Ear pain

Ear pain associated with a TMJ disorder occurs when inflammation of the jaw area spreads to your ear. Your ear is positioned less than half an inch away from your temporomandibular joints, so when a joint swells and becomes tender, the inflammation can easily radiate to the nearby ear canal and middle ear.

Ear pain associated with a TMJ disorder may result in having a stuffy or clogged feeling in your ear and is often confused with an earache. It can cause a sensation that feels like a consistent, dull irritation or a sharp, intense stab. The pain may affect one or both ears and may be persistent or come and go. The pain typically occurs with chewing, speaking, or opening your mouth wide.

  1. Clicking sounds

Some people affected by a TMJ disorder experience a clicking, grating, or popping sound that comes from the affected temporomandibular joint when they open or close their mouths. The noise is often loud enough for other people to hear it.

 The popping sound occurs as a result of a shifting of the cartilage-like disc that rests inside the temporomandibular joint. With a defective joint, the disc may slip in front of your lower jaw bone and dislocate when you close your mouth. When you open your mouth to talk or chew, the disc can reposition itself onto the lower jaw and a louder pop or crack can occur. The process can repeat itself each time you open and close your mouth.

Don’t suffer from the pain of an undiagnosed TMJ disorder. Schedule a consultation online or over the phone with the Centre for Contemporary Dental Concepts today.

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