Temporomandibular Joint Disease (TMJ): Overview and More

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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located in front of each ear, connecting the lower jaw with the skull. You can easily find it by opening and closing your mouth and feeling the joint with your fingers.

A TMJ disorder can occur when there is a problem with the TMJ itself or with the muscles around it. In addition to a dull ache in the joint near the ear, TMJ disease can cause headaches, earaches, stiff neck , and popping or popping in the jaw.

Diagnosis of TMJ disorder involves taking a medical history and physical examination. In some cases, imaging tests may be ordered. Conservative therapies are used to treat TMJ disorder, such as preventing provocative behavior and taking over-the-counter pain relievers.

Symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Symptoms of TMJ disorder often include:

Facial / TMJ pain

Pain in TMJ disorder is often described as a dull ache that extends from the TMJ to the temple, jaw, and back of the neck . The pain is worse when chewing or moving the jaw. Pain around the TMJ, headache, and stiff neck are also common.

Earache

You may experience severe earache, made worse by jaw movement or pain around the ear, as well as ear congestion and tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

Jaw dysfunction

Jaw popping or clicking, automatic jaw clenching or teeth grinding, and less commonly jaw lock may occur. These symptoms occur most often in the morning.

Other potential symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Jaw muscle spasms
  • Eye pain
  • Arm and back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Bad dream

Causes

TMJ abnormalities were originally thought to arise from incorrect placement of the upper and lower teeth. While this structural factor still plays a role, experts believe that other factors (eg emotional and environmental) are at play.

Get Medical Information / Alexandra Gordon

It is a combination of several factors that cause the manifestation of TMJ disorder.

Some of these factors include:

  • Injury to the jaw or joint (such as whiplash , teeth grinding / clenching, or chewing gum excessively)
  • Psychological factors such as anxiety, stress, or depression.
  • Poor head and neck posture
  • Increased awareness of pain and / or sensitivity.

Some people are more likely to develop a TMJ disorder. For example, TMJ disorders are more common in women and Caucasians than in African Americans .

There are also disorders or conditions that have been associated with TMJ, including:

Diagnostics

The diagnosis of temporomandibular joint disorder is based on history and physical examination, often performed by a physician or otolaryngologist (ENT).

Medical history and physical exam.

During your medical history, your healthcare provider will ask about specific pain, such as the extent, location, and quality of the pain, and what makes it worse or better. Your doctor will also ask about accompanying symptoms (such as headaches) and possible triggers (such as a history of trauma or teeth grinding).

The purpose of these questions is not only to diagnose TMJ disorder, but also to rule out simulated conditions such as:

During the physical exam, your healthcare professional will examine your mouth for any malocclusions and signs of wear on the teeth from grinding and clenching. You can also measure how far you can open your mouth, assess jaw range of motion, and apply pressure to the TMJ / jaw / shoulder / neck muscles to feel pain.

Display

Imaging tests such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be helpful in diagnosing TMJ disorder, especially if the medical history and physical exam results are vague or uncertain. Imaging tests can also help identify conditions that can cause or worsen TMJ pain, such as arthritis.

Watch out

Treatment for TMJ begins with the following simple and conservative treatments:

Self-care measures

Exercising your jaw, eating soft foods, and applying a warm compress to a sensitive joint can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with TMJ disorder. Jaw stretching exercises and relaxation techniques to relieve stress can also be helpful.

Medicine

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) , can ease the discomfort associated with TMJ disorder.

Muscle relaxants may be prescribed for people with TMJ-related muscle spasms in the jaw. For chronic TMJ pain, a tricyclic antidepressant such as Elavil (amitriptyline) or Pamelor (nortriptyline) may be prescribed.

Behavior changes

Another key ingredient is to stop challenging and / or annoying behaviors. This means that people with TMJ disorder should avoid chewing ice or gum, grinding their teeth, and clenching their jaw. Sometimes a bite plate or occlusal splint can help.

Occlusion therapy aims to protect your bite and prevent severe compression and grinding that can damage your teeth. To determine if this is possible, consult your dentist.

Operation

In rare cases, in severe cases, for example if the injury has occurred to the TMJ area or if the patient has severe pain and TMJ dysfunction despite conservative treatment, surgery may be required .

Get the word of drug information

If you are experiencing possible symptoms of a TMJ disorder, be sure to see your doctor for a proper evaluation, especially since there are a number of conditions that can mimic TMJ pain.

Then, if you (or your loved one) are diagnosed with a TMJ disorder, try to be patient and resilient. The good news is that with simple self-care measures and small lifestyle changes, the vast majority of people improve over time.

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