The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull just in front of your ear. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joint and its movement.
Signs of TMJ disorder include:
- · Pain around your jaw, ear and temple
- · Clicking, popping or grinding noises when you move your jaw
- · Headache around your temples
- · Difficulty opening your mouth fully
- · Your jaw locking when you open your mouth
- · Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
TMJ Disorder can be caused by:
The exact cause of a person's TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Your pain may be due to a combination of factors.
- Teeth grinding is a habit that can result in muscle spasm and an inflammatory reaction that can cause the initial pain. Generally, someone who has a habit of grinding his or her teeth will do so mostly during sleep.
- Wear and tear of the joint (arthritis). Like other joints in the body, the jaw joint is prone to arthritic changes. Degenerative joint disease causes a slow progressive loss of cartilage and formation of new bone at the surface of the joint.
- A blow to the head or face: This can break the jawbone, cause dislocation of the TMJ, or damage the cartilage disc of the joint. Once healed the TMJ may not be the exact shape it was prior to the injury
- Stress is often blamed for tension in the jaw, leading to a clenched jaw.
- An uneven bite: With an uneven bite the jaw may have to move more tin order to chew our food, leading to overuse of muscles which can cause pain.
- Excessive gum chewing: Can cause an over use muscle injury in the area.
- Anti-inflammatory and pain medications may provide relief.
- Eat a diet of soft foods until pain reduces.
- Avoid chewing gum and hard or chewy foods.
- Do not open your mouth wide.
- Stress-reduction techniques may help you manage stress and relax your jaw along with the rest of your body.
- Apply warm compresses on the area of pain.
Physiotherapy can help
- Your Physiotherapist can show you gentle stretching and movement exercises in order to correct any abnormal movements of the jaw
- A gentle massage of the area can also be beneficial.
- Acupuncture can be used to reduce pain and relax the muscles
The prognosis for TMJ syndrome is generally good. Most people can manage the discomfort with self-care and home remedies.
Complications of long-term TMJ syndrome include chronic face pain or chronic headaches. In severe situations, where pain is chronic, or associated with other inflammatory disorders, long-term treatment may be necessary.