Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome refers to a variety of medical problems that cause pain and/or stiffness in the jaw joint. TMJ syndrome can cause several mild to serious issues for those that have it including pain while speaking or chewing, ear pain, headaches, difficulty opening and closing the jaw, muscle spasms and tension in the neck and shoulders.
Common causes of TMJ syndrome include:
- Trauma to the jaw. This may include macrotrauma such as might be experienced in a car accident as well as microtrama that could be caused from nighttime teeth grinding (bruxism) or habitual jaw clenching.
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis – like other joints in the human body, these conditions may also affect the jaw.
- Other causes may include infection of the joint or cancer.
How do you know if you have TMJ syndrome?
It can actually difficult for most people to know if they have TMJ because many of the symptoms mirror other conditions. For example, ear pain caused by TMJ syndrome could easily be mistaken for an ear infection when in fact there is actually nothing wrong with the ear.
More obvious symptoms include clicking or popping of the jaw when it is opened or closed and sometimes the jaw even locking into place when it is opened very wide.
Who should seek out TMJ treatment?
Not everyone with TMJ syndrome requires treatment. Mild cases that cause occasional jaw pain are rarely cause for concern. If the pain is severe however, or you have difficulty opening and closing the jaw, then it is time to see a dentist and explore treatment options.
Additionally, if you are experiencing any symptoms that are causing you concern, you should always feel comfortable in speaking to your dentist about them.
Treatment options may include getting a nighttime mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding, getting physical therapy to help relax and strengthen jaw muscles, and in more severe cases TMJ treatment might include surgery.
If the jaw locks opened or closed, this is considered a medical emergency and you should see an emergency dentist right away or go to a hospital emergency department. This is usually treated by sedating you enough to relax the muscles and gently manipulating the jaw back into place.
Contact Sapphire Dental today for TMJ treatment or advice
If you think you may have TMJ syndrome and would like to learn more about treatment options, contact Sapphire Dental today. One of our dentists would be happy to provide an exam and recommend a course of action.