The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the sliding joint that joins the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. Although it’s just a small part, it plays a huge role in multiple functions such as chewing, breathing, swallowing, sucking, facial expressions, and others. When you have a damaged TMJ, the tiniest mouth movements can result in severe pain, thus affecting your appetite, sleep, and performance at work. We, therefore, recommend seeing a TMJ specialist in Houston soon as you start experiencing TMJ-related symptoms.
What Is Tmj?
TMJ syndrome, also referred to as temporomandibular disorder (TMD), is a condition that affects the TMJ and jaw muscles. Patients who suffer from TMJ tend to experience severe pain in their facial regions, which worsens when moving their jaws, for example, when talking and chewing. TMJ disorders can be grouped into three categories:
Internal Derangement of Tmj: It happens when the patient has a dislocated jaw, disc, or injury on the round edge of the jawbone that connects with the temporal bone called the condyle
Myofascial Pain: Associated with tenderness or pain in muscles in charge of controlling neck, jaw, and shoulder movement
Degenerative Joint Disorders: An inflammatory joint disorder related to TMJ that causes conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
Causes of TMJ?
The cause of TMJ disorders is challenging to determine since it can result from many factors. Below are some of the main causes of TMJ:
- Trauma to the neck, jaw, head, or temporomandibular joint
- Arthritis in the joint
- Ear and TMJ infections
- Chronic stress that causes you to tighten your jaw muscles frequently
- Autoimmune diseases
- Dental surgeries that require the insertion of a breathing tube
Some other causes may be related to genetics, hormones, and the environment. You may still get TMJ without experiencing the listed causes, as researchers are still trying to determine other causes. There were misconceptions that the disorder could be related to orthodontic braces and bad bites, but that was proved untrue. Since we don’t know all the causes of TMJ, we recommend paying more attention to symptoms related to TMJ.
What Are the Symptoms of Tmj Disorders?
There are numerous symptoms related to TMJ, the most common being jaw pain. Below are symptoms associated with TMJ:
This remains to be the most common TMJ-related symptom. Patients with TMJ tend to experience pain in their jaw, face, neck, and shoulders that spreads to the ear when chewing, speaking, or yawning. Tmj pain can also cause migraines and make it hard for people with the condition to concentrate or sleep.
The unusual clicking and popping sound you get when eating, talking, and yawning might be an early sign of TMJ. Although some jaw sounds are not caused by TMJ, people who experience such sounds with headaches and jaw pains are more likely to suffer from TMJ disorders. Numbing and buzzing sounds in the ears, coupled with earaches, may also indicate TMJ.
Being unable to fully open or close your jaws due to limited movements may be related to TMJ. So if you’ve been experiencing limited mouth movements, it would be best to see a dentist in Houston, TX, for diagnosis and treatment.
Do Tmj Disorders Go Away?
Yes, you can naturally heal from TMJ disorders. However, the best thing to do if your TMJ symptoms persist for weeks is to go for TMJ treatment. TMJ treatment can help relieve pain, headaches, and other problems related to TMJ disorders. Here are ways to treat TMJ:
Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care
Some people heal from TMJ without seeking professional treatment by practicing self-care and making necessary lifestyle changes. So if you have TMJ, try to reduce jaw movements by not chewing gum or solid food and clenching your jaws when stressed or bored. Practicing some gentle jaw exercises, such as slightly stretching the jaw, may also help reduce symptoms of TMJ. Once you are done, apply ice on the side of the jaw through the cheeks and rest regularly.
Treating Existing Conditions
This involves treating pre-existing conditions that may have caused TMJ. For example, we may fit patients with bruxism with mouth guards to reduce TMJ symptoms. On the other hand, if your TMJ was caused by degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis, we may recommend steroid injections to treat the TMJ symptoms.
Surgery may be the only viable option for patients with severe cases of TMJ. A TMJ disorder can result from damage to the joint or surrounding muscles. If your dentist finds other treatment options ineffective, they will recommend surgery to fix your TMJ problems. However, that rarely happens since severe cases of TMJ are quite scarce.
Living with a TMJ disorder is very painful and uncomfortable. Patients usually find it challenging to eat, chew, sleep or work due to severe pain. Even though many TMJ cases heal naturally without professional treatment, it may not work for everyone. Some patients can experience severe TMJ that can only be cured professionally. So, if you have been experiencing TMJ symptoms for weeks without signs of recovery, visit Cabrera Dental Associates for the best TMJ specialist in Houston. We have undergone years of training to master the skills to treat the most severe cases of TMJ.