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Do You Suffer From TMJ?

Photo by Christopher Campbell from Unsplash

Jaw pain is not an uncommon thing. Over 10 million Americans suffer from a condition called temporomandibular joint dysfunction, more commonly known as TMJ disorders. Many people shorten TMJ disorders to just TMJ. So what exactly is TMJ? And is it treatable? Keep reading for more basic information about TMJ.

What is it?

The temporomandibular joint is the joint where your jawbone meets the skull. Open your mouth and notice where your jaw hinges, back by the ear. This is the temporomandibular joint. You can lightly press your fingers against the joint and feel the joint move as you open and shut your jaw.  This joint is on both sides of the head and TMJ can affect one or both joints. So what causes issues with this joint? There is no one specific cause to TMJ but factors such as gender, genetics, and a habit of grinding or clenching the teeth can lead to TMJ.

TMJ is much more common in women than men and often appears as a problem in teenage girls when they start growing. Teenage girls commonly experience TMJ as they go through a growth spurt. TMJ can be inherited genetically. People with family members who have TMJ are more likely to have TMJ themselves. Carrying stress and tension in the jaw can also cause TMJ. Clenching and grinding the teeth can put extra stress on the jaw and temporomandibular joint which can result in TMJ. Many people grind their teeth in their sleep and are not even aware that this could be the cause of their sore jaw.

Symptoms

There are many different symptoms of TMJ including aching pain around the ear, difficulty chewing, aching facial pain, tenderness of the jaw, pain in the temporomandibular joint, a clicking sound when you open your jaw, and locking of the joint that makes opening or closing the mouth difficult.

Though these symptoms are annoying, if you have mild TMJ symptoms you probably don’t need professional treatment. However, if your TMJ-related symptoms cause you great pain or interfere with your everyday life, you should seek professional treatment. Extreme pain or frequent locking of the jaw should be treated.

Treatment

The first step in treating TMJ is to have it officially diagnosed. TMJ can be diagnosed by a doctor or orthodontist who will listen, feel, and observe your jaw as your open and shut it. They may use their fingers to press on areas around the jaw and joint to locate the areas that are causing pain.

In some cases, a doctor or dentist may suggest no treatment because the TMJ disorder could go away on its own, but they may also prescribe medications such as pain relievers or muscle relaxants. TMJ can also be treated with therapy, braces, or surgery. The type of treatment your physician will suggest will depend on the severity and cause of your TMJ.

I personally struggle with TMJ. My jaw has clicked since I was a teenager, and my jaw would get tired while I ate. I ate less and often had frequently had sore facial muscles. I asked my orthodontist what we could do to help me manage my TMJ and he suggested we use Invisalign to straighten my teeth and correct my bite. I am currently in the middle of my Invisalign treatment and already see a lot of progress. My jaw no longer pops and doesn’t get tired. The quicker you start treating your TMJ the quicker you will find relief, so find an orthodontist near you and get started.

 
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