Keeping Hallsville healthy: Know the signs of temporomandibular joint dysfunction
A temporomandibular joint, often abbreviated TMJ, is a jaw joint. TMJ dysfunction is not a specific, well-defined problem. Instead, as the name implies, it encompasses many potential injuries, diseases, and other problems that prevent the joint from functioning properly. Facial trauma, bruxism (grinding teeth), and degenerative diseases such as arthritis are among the most common causes.
You might expect a problem with this joint to cause jaw pain or possibly difficulty chewing. While these are possible and common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction, there are many other potential effects, which you may never expect. In addition to bones, muscles, and ligaments, the jaw involves several nerves. Damage, strain, or other malfunction of the joint can result in referred pain, in which the symptoms manifest in a different area than they originate.
TMJ dysfunction is known for being diagnostically challenging, because there is a vast array of potential symptoms, and they manifest a little differently in each patient. The symptoms may be felt on one or both sides of the face. The most common signs include:
- Limited jaw movement, or locking jaw
- Pain in the jaw
- Pain in other areas of the face, head, neck, shoulders, or upper back
- Swelling in the jaw area
- Severe headaches, sometimes diagnosed as migraines
- Tired feeling or muscle fatigue in the face
- Crepitus (popping, grinding, clicking, or other sounds when you move your jaw)
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing problems
- Earaches or a feeling of fullness in the ear
- Jaws tire easily when eating, speaking, or chewing gum
Historically, TMJ dysfunction suffers have endured misdiagnosis, or no diagnosis at all. Some have even been accused of hypochondria, because no physical cause for their symptoms could be found. Today, this condition is much better understood, and it is typically treated by trained dental professionals rather than general practitioners. Due to their knowledge of the oral cavity and supporting structures, dentists have the ideal background for treating this condition. If you suspect that you may have this condition, call us at 903-708-6116 and schedule an appointment today.