Learning to Recognize TMJ Symptoms
You’re going about your day, eating lunch, yawning, or talking to a friend, and there it is—that popping or clicking sound that your jaw can’t seem to stop making. Whether it’s every once in a while or all the time, hearing these sounds coming from your jaw can be distracting and concerning. You may find yourself wondering, “Do I have TMJ?”
The term TMJ is used by many to refer to the disorder that affects their temporomandibular joint. Officially, the disorder is called TMD or TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder). Clicking and popping sounds are often a sign of TMD, but they aren’t always. If you notice these sounds coming from your jaw, especially if they’re frequent, you should always visit your family dentist in Wasilla, AK for a diagnosis. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
If you’re still unsure about whether or not you should visit your dentist, however, learning more about TMJ or TMD could help you determine if you have other symptoms. This can be especially helpful because TMJ symptoms vary greatly and can be surprisingly widespread, including symptoms that you may have never thought to link to your jaws. To help you determine if you need to schedule an appointment with your dentist about your jaw, here’s a breakdown of TMD.
Symptoms of TMJ
A popping or clicking jaw, especially when these sounds are accompanied by pain, is a common symptom of TMJ and should always be checked out by a dentist. Since TMD has many potential symptoms, however, you may notice symptoms beyond this. Some of these symptoms include frequent headaches or migraines, tooth pain or sensitivity, bruxism, earaches, and pain or sore muscles in your jaw, face, neck, shoulders, and upper back. You may also have difficulty opening or closing your jaw, and some people experience lockjaw, which is when the jaw “locks” in one position for an extended period of time. These symptoms can make it difficult to chew, talk, or laugh without experiencing pain. If the discomfort or pain in your jaw or surrounding muscles is keeping you awake at night, you may also struggle with symptoms like fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
There’s a clear connection between these symptoms and your TMJ, but TMD also has symptoms that you may not realize are connected to your jaw. This includes symptoms like ringing in your ears, temporary hearing loss, and dizziness, all of which can be caused by inflammation spreading beyond the confines of your jaw. You may also notice tingling or numbness in your fingers. It’s strange to think that a problem with your jaw can cause dizziness, symptoms within your ears, or symptoms all the way in your fingertips, right? But it can! Thankfully, these symptoms are reversible with TMD treatment, so finding a treatment method that works for you can help you begin to feel better in ways you didn’t expect.
Causes of TMJ
The causes of TMD can be as varied as its symptoms. The condition can be caused by dental issues such as a misaligned bite, clenching or grinding your teeth, or orofacial myofunctional disorder, which is a condition that impacts the way the muscles of your jaw, face, and lips work with the joints. These factors put more stress on your jaw than it is meant to handle, either because of constant pressure or because the jaw is being held in an improper position that keeps it from relaxing fully. Problems with the joint itself, such as an injury, arthritis, or Ehler-Danlos Syndrome can also cause TMD, as can high stress or anxiety.
What You Should Do
If you’re experiencing TMJ symptoms and suspect that you may have TMD, the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with Dr. Rob as soon as possible. He will perform a thorough exam to help diagnose the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan.
If you do have TMD, there are many treatment methods to choose from. This is partially because the causes of the condition can be the result of habitual behaviors, illnesses, or injuries developed over time, plus genetics. Determining the exact cause of your specific case of TMD isn’t always easy, but even if you don’t know the exact cause, there are plenty of treatment options available for you to try. In fact, many treatments for TMJ pain can be done right at home!
Since there are different causes for TMD, the best way to treat your case may be different from the way used to treat someone else’s. This means that the ideal TMD treatment is tailored specifically for you! Thankfully, the simplicity of many TMD treatments gives you the ability to try several treatments at home until you find one or two that work for you. The simplest treatments involve using daily exercises to strengthen the muscles in your jaw or wearing a nightguard to sleep. You can also undergo orthodontic treatment to resolve a misaligned jaw or Botox injections to force constantly tense muscles to relax.
In severe cases, especially when there is damage to the joint itself, surgical treatments might be necessary, but many of these are minimally invasive. Rest assured that Dr. Rob will always try the least invasive options before moving onto more involved options like injections or surgery.
While TMD has a lot of potential causes, the wide range of simple treatments that you can try at home often makes it relatively easy to treat. Once you’ve hit on the right treatment methods for you, it’s often not just your jaws that begin to feel better—you may begin to feel healthier in other ways, too! If you’d like to learn more about TMD and how we can help you live pain-free again, feel free to contact our family dentist in Wasilla, AK to schedule a consultation with Dr. Rob at any time.