Did you know that 12 out of 100 individuals develop TMJ disorder at any given time? This disorder, characterized by discomfort to extreme pain in the jaw area, is nine times more likely experienced by women than men.
1. What Is TMJ Disorder?
The temporomandibular joint or TMJ is the joint that links your jaw or mandible to your skull. It is found on the left and right sides of the head, in front of the ears. If you have a TMJ disorder, you’ll experience pain when chewing or doing any movement with your jaw.
The pain may result from an injury, a hereditary condition, arthritis, or extreme teeth grinding (aka bruxism). As a result, diagnosing TMJ is challenging.
The pain and discomfort arising from a TMJ disorder is usually temporary and can be relieved with non-invasive treatments. However, surgery may still be needed when conservative measures fail.
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A TMJ disorder more commonly affects women between the age of 20 and 40 than men and often manifests as the following symptoms:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw, face, neck, and shoulders, especially when speaking, chewing or opening the mouth wide
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Open or closed locking of the jaw
- A tired feeling on the face
- A grating, popping or clicking sound when chewing
- Having an uncomfortable bite because of misalignment (malocclusion)
- A hearing problem, e.g., tinnitus, difficulty hearing
- Ear pain
As mentioned, TMJ disorders have various causes, including injury or trauma and genetics. Preexisting health conditions such as the ones below may also contribute to the development of a TMJ disorder:
- Joint erosion
- Habitual teeth grinding and clenching
- Structural jaw problems
- Tumor growth
Some theories say oral health conditions, dental braces, lack of sleep, stress, fatigue, poor diet, lack of exercise, and weak neck posture contribute to the development of a TMJ disorder.
4. When To Go To The Doctor
See a doctor or a dentist if you experience persistence in any of the TMJ disorder symptoms mentioned above, especially pain or tenderness in the jaw. Only a health specialist can accurately diagnose your condition and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Mild cases of TMJ disorders are often treated with self-care measures such as:
- Using cold compress
- Eating soft foods
- Chewing carefully
- Doing jaw stretching exercises
- Avoiding chewing gum and chewy foods
- Reducing stress
- Minimizing jaw movements
Still, pain may be feel or persist. In such a scenario, your dentist or doctor may recommend:
- A mouthguard or splint to manage teeth grinding
- Pain medications
- Muscle relaxants
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Botox to reduce facial muscle tension
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to manage stress
Lastly, severe cases of TMJ disorders require surgery or dental work to correct bite, align the upper and lower teeth, remove debris or fluid in the joint, remove a tumour, or replace the jaw joints. General or local anesthesia is given to patients undergoing invasive treatments. This will be further discussed with you by your doctor or dentist before the start of the procedure.