TMJ syndrome stands for temporomandibular joint syndrome. It is a disorder that affects the jaw tissues and the nerves. It generally occurs when you suffer an injury in the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw with your skull.
Even the doctors are not really sure about the causes behind this syndrome. However, they believe that is mainly due to individual habits or as a result of some severe injury in the jaw bone. The common causes are:
Teeth grinding: This is a common habit that affects many Americans. Especially while sleeping, teeth grinding can do a lot of damage. It will make that area weak and more prone to injuries. The structure of your teeth may also change as a result of continuous grinding.
Repeated biting on things: Continuous biting on objects is a nervous habit that can also cause serious damage including TMJ. People chew on anything, from a pen to their fingernails to ice cubes. The continuous pressure generated on the jaw bones will make it weak. Excessive chewing of gums is also another major cause.
Trauma: If you suffer some type of severe injury to the jaw bone area, then you may be at higher risk for developing TMJ.
Common risk factors for developing TMJ include:
Stress: Excess stress causes clenching of the teeth, which is one of the major causes of TMJ. Stress can also cause teeth grinding, another major cause of TMJ.
Gender and Age: Women who are between 20 years and 40 years of age are at maximum risk. Those who fall into this category should definitely see their dentist regularly and discuss symptoms immediately should any develop.
Sedentary Work Habits: People who work at their desk for long hours are also at risk. Bad posture causes pain in the neck region, which may lead to problems in the jaw.
Since there are lots of other diseases having similar symptoms, it is slightly difficult to diagnose TMJ. First, the doctor will look at your jaw structure and ask for the exact location of the pain. Generally, a X-Ray is required so that your doctor has a clear view inside your jaw. In some cases, an MRI or CT scan may also be necessary.
Pain in the jaw: This is the most common symptom. If you are experiencing continuous or severe pain in your jaw, definitely consider visiting the doctor. You may experience pain during any slight movement of the jaw, like yawning or even talking.
Pain in the ear: In many cases, a slight pain in the air is also observed. Many people also have a ringing sensation in their ears, commonly known as tinnitus. In severe cases, hearing loss may also occur.
Clicking noise while moving the jaw: While moving your jaw, you may hear a popping sound. Others may also be able to hear this noise. It usually means the dislocation of the discs.
Apart from this, there may also be other symptoms like vertigo, tight muscles in the neck region or severe headaches.
Some of the common treatments include:
Medications: In order to get rid of the swelling and the pain, you can take some non-prescription pain medications like ibuprofen. If those don’t work, your doctor may suggest other strong pain relievers.
Oral Splints: These are plastic pieces, which you need to wear so that your upper set of teeth and your lower set of teeth do not collide. This will protect you from the harmful effects of clenching or biting.
Physical Therapy: Physical Therapy may also help.You can try out different jaw exercises to strengthen your jaw area.
Surgery: When the other forms of treatment fail, surgery is performed. The success rate is very high, but in some cases some side effects may occur.
Try out soft foods: Try to include as many fruits and vegetables in your meal as possible. Also cut your food into small pieces, so that you don’t need to exert too much pressure on the jaw.