What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tmj?

By: Terry Edwards

The temporomandibular joint (or TMJ) is a ball and socket joint. This joint is located on both sides of your face and it is what controls the way your jaw moves. When you chew or move your lower jaw from side to side the TMJ is what keeps your jaw moving correctly. Temporomandibular joint disorders are very common and it is thought that between five and fifteen percent of the population suffers from problems with it at least once in their lifetimes. Because problems with the TMJ are so common it is important that you are able to recognize the warning signs of TMJ disorders so that they can be treated correctly and before they become severe.

One of the major symptoms of disorders of the temporomandibular joint is tenderness in the jaw area. The tenderness can be both localized to the joint itself or it could radiate up around your ears. It probably gets worse when you chew. In severe cases, there could be pain whether or not you are chewing. Sometimes TMJ disorders can cause headaches or even an uneven bite.

If your jaw isn't aligned your teeth might not connect properly when you are chewing. Sometimes people with TMJ experience "jaw lock" which makes it hard for them to close and open their mouths. Sufferers also have to deal with a clicking sound when they talk or chew. Of course, not all clicking in the jaw is a sign of temporomandibular joint disorders.

If you start noticing signs of a TMJ disorder or experiencing symptoms of one, you should schedule an appointment with your regular physician and your dentist. Both will have experience in dealing with the jaw and will know how to address the signs and symptoms you are experiencing. Most of these disorders don't need complicated, uncomfortable or expensive treatments. Believe it or not, most disorders of your temporomandibular joint are a result of stress!

Stress can cause people to clench their jaws or have nervous habits like chewing on pencils or pens. It can also cause people to grind their teeth while they are sleeping. Typically your doctor or dentist will be able to teach you other methods to cope with stress that will, hopefully, keep you from those nervous habits that put stress on your jaw. And hopefully when you've learned to cope with the stress your jaw will heal.

Unfortunately, there are some TMJ disorders that are severe and other corrective measures are encouraged in order to correct the problems. While surgery is not usually needed, some dental correction might be needed. If you have noticed that it is causing your teeth to shift and cause problems with your bite alignment, you might need some orthodontics or even an implant.

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