According to the Academy of General Dentistry, an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ disorder. Temporomandibular joint disorder affects the jaw joint, muscles and nerves. While it is often simply referred to as TMJ, that’s a bit misleading since TMJ refers to the joint itself, not the disorder.
The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. It’s flexible and allows the jaw to move smoothly and for everyday functions such as chewing. The muscles connected to the jaw joint keep your jaw in position and control movement.
If you are not yet diagnosed with a TMJ disorder, you will need to know what symptoms likely point to it. Here are some potential clues:
- If you experience pain or tenderness in the jaw, neck and shoulders when you chew, speak, or simply open your mouth wide.
- If you experience a sudden discomfort when chewing.
- Do you have a limited ability to open your mouth?
- Is there a clicking or popping sound when you open or close your jaw?
- Swelling on the side of your face
While dentists and other medical experts don’t have a clear answer about what causes the disorder, there are some potential culprits.
- Stress, which can cause the person to clench their jaw or grind their teeth
- Arthritis in the TMJ
- An injury, such as whiplash or being struck in the face
If the condition affects a person’s bite, it can lead to dental damage. A properly aligned bite is important, otherwise you risk tooth fractures.
If you have been experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, contact your dentist for an examination. Even if it’s not feeling very painful at the moment, waiting can only worsen the condition if you indeed have the disorder. There are many other causes that may lead to your symptoms, so it’s important you have a thorough dental examination to determine your situation.