The jaw joint is one of the most-often utilized joints in the body. This joint is called the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). The TMJ consists of the jawbone (the mandible) and the maxilla, located where the jawbone meets the skull. Eating, speaking, yawning and more all rely on opening and closing the mouth at the TMJ. This hinge-type joint operates both day and night. When there’s TMJ pain and discomfort it can have a reaching effect.
Dental experts estimate the number of people with a TMJ disorder within the U.S. at over 10 million and counting. The exact number of people suffering from a TMJ disorder (TMD) is uncertain. Oftentimes, the symptoms of TMJ/TMD may be undetectable or begin as painless annoyances such as a clicking or popping when moving the jaw. Over time, what may seem like harmless symptoms can develop into much more.
TMJ/TMDs can affect the entire upper body. TMJ/TMDs have been linked to:
- Hearing damage and loss
- Chronic headaches and migraines
- Painful neck, back, and upper-body aches
- Tenderness and soreness in the facial muscles
- Difficulty and pain opening and closing the mouth
These symptoms can develop to become quite severe, leading to missed workdays and special events. Recognizing the common causes of TMJ disorders can help develop awareness and inspire early treatment.
Common Causes of TMJ Pain
Teeth Grinding. Teeth grinding (bruxism) is one of the most common causes of jaw pain and may be a sign of a TMD. Many people grind their teeth, including in their sleep. Teeth grinding may be a reaction to stress or an unconscious habit. Bruxism can cause wear on the teeth (including broken and chipped teeth), and place extra stress on the facial muscles. This can all contribute to, and aggravate, TMJ disorders.
Trauma. Fractures, dislocations, and other traumas to the jaw can cause TMJ pain. Trauma can displace the alignment of the jaw, leading to the development of TMJ/TMDs. Traumas linked to TMDs include:
- Impacts to the head and face
- Hyper-extending the jaw muscles
It’s a good idea to see a dentist following any trauma to the head, neck, and upper body to ensure proper dental health.
Genetics and Lifestyle. TMDs can develop from much more than bruxism and heavy impacts. Hereditary factors, lifestyle choices, previous dental procedures, and more can all contribute to poor jaw alignment. When the temporomandibular joint is out of alignment any movement can aggravate TMD symptoms. The jaw muscles will quickly fatigue compensating for the difference, leading to pain across the body.
If you’re suffering from jaw pain, experience clicking or popping in the jaw, or just think you may have a TMJ disorder contact a dentist today. During a TMJ evaluation, a dentist can make the connection between headaches, muscle aches, ear pain and more with a TMJ disorder. Rather than treat the symptom, treat the cause. Advancements in neuromuscular dentistry have yielded permanent solutions for TMJ disorders.
Many people suffer from TMJ/TMDs for years or more without knowing the root cause, or that treatment is available. Bringing the jaw to its proper alignment can alleviate the pain and discomfort of TMJ/TMDs for good. Identifying the root cause allows dentists to recommend permanent TMJ treatment solutions for permanent relief from TMDs. Contact a dentist for a TMJ evaluation today and start toward living a life free from TMJ/TMD pain and discomfort.