The Hidden Signs Of TMJ

by Dr. Edmond Suh // July - August - September

Are you one of the many who suffer from frequent headaches, migraines, vertigo, ear pain, or sinus pressure? Are you tired of taking pills that may have long-term effects on your organs or paying for expensive Botox injections that wear off in months because you need relief from this discomfort? Do you know why you’re experiencing these conditions? Perhaps it’s for a reason you never suspected – TMJ. Up to 12% of the U.S. population experiences some sort of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, with both children and adults at risk.

The temporomandibular joint connects your jawbone to the skull on each side of your face and is capable of both rotational and translational movements. This complex joint works to allow movements from side to side and up and down, as well as grinding and hinging. These functions are key to everyday activities like chewing your food and speaking. So if you are experiencing persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw, or you struggle to open or close your jaw completely, you should seek treatment from your dentist or doctor.

While most people think the first symptom is pain in the face, this is actually a rare way for TMJ symptoms to start out. How do you know if you are experiencing TMJ disorders? These are a number of common symptoms: pain or achiness in the jaw, neck, face, ears, and shoulders; painful chewing and problems when eating; headaches; dizziness; ringing in the ears; popping or clicking of the jaw; muscle spasms or swelling in the jaw and face; and locking of the jaw, making it difficult to shut your mouth.

Many people think TMJ disorders are caused by some type of jaw trauma. More times than not, though, TMJ disorders – which are often difficult to determine – are caused by a combination of factors like genetics, arthritis, or clenching or grinding of teeth.

Several risk factors that can increase the risk of developing TMJ disorders include: the diagnosis of various types of arthritis, including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis; injury to the jaw; chronic grinding or clenching of the teeth; and certain connective tissue disorders.

Other causes of TMJ disorders include:
– Erosion of the disks in the joint;
– The jaw being out of alignment;
– Damage to the cartilage in the jaw;
– Arthritis;
– Impact or blow to the jaw.

Approximately 17.8 million workdays are lost due to the lack of sleep and pain caused by TMJ disorders because the limitations and changes in the jaw’s normal range of motion can cause pain and difficulty sleeping. Getting enough sleep is important for controlling inflammation, but with a TMJ disorder, that may be a challenge. Relaxation exercises may help in getting better sleep, but not treating TMJ disorders can impair someone’s quality of life. Stress also adds to the causes of TMJ disorders. For instance, stress can cause you to unconsciously clench your teeth and tighten your jaw muscles, creating added pressure and strain. Without treatment, this disorder can lead to long-term damage and orthodontic complications.

Since the classic symptom of pain in the face usually doesn’t present itself until the later stages of TMJ, consider seeking a proper diagnosis from your dentist or doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Reversing the dysfunction can be harder than getting it controlled and treated earlier with a healthier, permanent solution. Prevent the long-term effects of TMJ disorder by getting it addressed now.

Dr. Edmond Suh

Owner of Supremia Dentistry, located at 1711 S. Main St. in Wake Forest.