Common TMJ Symptoms Explained
TMJ is the medical term used to describe pain in your jaw, clicking sounds and grating feelings when you are chewing, and general jaw discomfort. A lot of people have a little bit of clicking when they move their jaw bones, but as long as their jaws can move freely, it’s not anything to worry about – if you are pain free, then you don’t need to seek treatment urgently for TMJ.
However, if you have pain, tenderness, or discomfort, or your TMJ symptoms mean that you struggle to open or close your jaw completely, then you should speak to a doctor or a dentist. If they agree that you have a problem with your jaw, they can refer you to a TMJ specialist.
The specialist will look at the temporomandibular joint, and help you to figure out whether the joint has an issue. This joint relies on a hinge action and some abilty to slide. The bones in the joint are covered with cartilage, and there is a small disk which is intended to ensure that the movement of the jaw is always smooth. There is a lot that can go wrong with the joint.
Sadly, it can be hard to diagnose exactly what has caused TMJ disorders in many people, but TMJ can usually be treated. Dentists believe that the muscles around the jaw can contribute to the problems – especially if you tend to grind or clench your teeth. They also think that arthritis in the joint can cause problems, as can damage to the disc or the ball/socket of the joint.
TMJ disorders can range from mildly painful to something that causes severe issues. It is more common in women than in men, and it frequently affects people aged between 20 and 40. Some people simply find that their face feels ‘tired’ while others notice that their jaw gets stuck or locks either partially open or partially closed and they may experience quite severe pain.
Some people can manage their TMJ simply by taking anti-inflammatory medication and by stretching their jaw daily. Others find that if they avoid hard foods so that they don’t have to put as much effort into chewing, their symptoms lessen. For others, though the symptoms are more serious and they require more active treatment.
If you know that you grind your teeth while you are asleep, try wearing a night guard to protect your teeth from damage. During the day, focus on keeping your mouth slightly open, and put your tongue between your teeth so that you are not tempted to bite or grind. Focus on maintaining good posture so that you put less stress on your neck.
TMJ disorders are more common than you might first think, but they are also perfectly treatable if you seek advice early on. Talk to your dentist and try to come up with a home management plan before you start taking stronger painkillers or looking at other more serious forms of intervention