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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ)

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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ)

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ)

Temporomandibular joint disorders cause pain and decreased functioning in the jaws and the muscles responsible for their movement. These disorders are called TMJ, which stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorders.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder can be a temporary nuisance or a life-altering problem. When Temporomandibular joint disorder is less severe you may have trouble biting down on harder foods which can cause pain throughout the jaw joint, it’s annoying but not serious. With a little care and time, the pain goes away. However, when it is severe, simple activities like talking or eating become a big issue. Per Matthew J. Messina, DDS, a spokesman for the American Dental Association, it can be highly debilitating.

Dr. Messina explains that when the disc in our jaw joint slips out of position while you are sleeping or when waking, it’s hard to open your mouth. You cannot open it more than 10 millimeters (less than 1/2 inch) where the normal opening is about 50 millimeters or 2 inches. This creates difficulty when eating, you can’t even get toast in your mouth!

Causes of TMJ syndrome are not well known, there are several factors that contribute to the tightness of muscles and dysfunction that lead to this condition. It is unclear if these lead directly to TMJ syndrome, but they are possibilities.

They include:

1.Trauma or misalignment of the jaw or teeth
2. Teeth grinding
3. Stress
4. Arthritis or other inflammatory musculoskeletal disorders
5. Excessive gum chewing
6. Poor posture

The most common symptom linked to Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ) is dull, aching pain in the jaw joint. You can feel pain in the jaw and in the surrounding area including face, teeth, and ears. The pain can also transfer to your neck and shoulders and worsens from chewing or moving the jaw.

There are other Temporomandibular Joint Disorder symptoms which include:

1. Trouble chewing or eating (especially harder foods)
2. Tenderness in jaw
3. Grating sensation while chewing
4. An uncomfortable or uneven bite
5. Inability to close or open the mouth completely also called lockjaw
6. Change in fit between upper and lower teeth

Per the National Institute of Health, TMJ may affect more than 10 million unto 35 million Americans, women are more prone to this disorder.

You need a dentist to treat TMJ. Your dentist will gather history, examine your jaw, neck, face, teeth, and head, then perform tests. Those with less severe symptoms like ringing in the ear, headache, and neck pain can see their regular doctor.

There are some home remedies you can try to treat Temporomandibular joint disorders before you see your dentist:

1. Massage
Often the pain is from muscle spasms, massage the portion of your jaw just in front of your ears to help relax tight muscles.

2. Heat
Warmth is an amazing muscle relaxant, use a heating pad or hot water bottle to your affected jaw. This will ease the pain of the jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles. Make sure your heating pad is not too hot as it may burn your skin.

3. Cool
Ice packs can also help you relieve pain in your jaw. Try alternating hot and cold treatments to combat muscle stiffness and pain, use your heating pad for 20 minutes followed by an ice pack for 10 minutes. Keep switching between the two until you get relief.

4. Relax
Stress is a major cause of TMJ disorders, try stress-relieving techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or progressive relaxation. This will keep you stress-free and improve your general health.

[Last Updated on May 30th, 2014]
Reviewed by Nima Shei, MD

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