You may not give it a second of thought, but the hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull is critical to eating, talking, even breathing heavily. This is the temporomandibular joint. When problems develop with this joint, the condition is known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and it can create chronic pain.
At Gentle Dental, Dr. Strober is our resident expert with TMJ, as he has advanced training in this often-misunderstood dental condition.
What is TMJ?
For your bite to function and fit, three components must work together: your teeth, the masseter muscles, and your temporomandibular joint. When all is well, you have no pain in the jaw or face area, and there isn’t any clicking or popping when you chew. But if one of the three components creates alignment problems with the jaw, this leads to problems with the bite that can lead to jaw pain that can also radiate down into the neck and shoulders. You are suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
What are the symptoms of TMJ?
TMJ is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40; women have the condition more often than men. These are the typical symptoms:
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, or in and around the ears when you chew or otherwise open your mouth
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you chew or simply open or close your mouth
- Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” either open or closed
- Consistent headaches
- Regular jaw stiffness
- Ear ringing
- Unintentional teeth grinding
- A tired feeling in your face
- Upper shoulder pain
What causes TMJ?
Diagnosing TMJ can be tricky, as symptoms such as an earache or shoulder pain can be attributed to other causes. But the experience of Dr. Strober with the condition is an advantage for our patients. Causes often can be traced back to problems with the patient’s bite, but other subtler issues such as stress and nightly teeth clenching during sleep can also contribute. Traumatic injury to the jaw or joints can lead to TMJ, plus research points to a possible genetic predisposition.
Here are some of the causes of TMJ:
- Grinding teeth during sleep
- Clenching the teeth
- Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint
- Arthritis in the joint
- Stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles
- Traumatic injury to the jaw
If you have any of the telltale signs and symptoms above, please give us a call at Gentle Dental. Unlike most dental practices, we have a TMJ expert on staff. Call us at (732) 549-5660 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Strober.