Your Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ, for short) connects your lower jaw to your skull. Without it, none of us would be able to speak, eat, or open our mouths! In this sense, the TMJ is really an essential part of our anatomy, but sometimes things can go wrong. When they do, you’ll need to see me, Dr Emanuel Mizrahi, at Forest HiIls Orthodontic Associates.
What is TMJ disorder?
Your TMJ is a bit like a hinge. It allows your lower jaw to move around so that you can talk to people, yawn, eat, and do all of the things that you’d expect. You have one on each side of your face, and each one consists of small muscles, cartilage, and connective tissues that connect to the skull. In so many ways, it’s a really amazing piece of natural engineering, but things can also go wrong.
When the muscles and tissues around the joints become inflamed or damaged, this is what we call TMJ disorder. If you think that TMJ disorders aren’t common, you might be surprised to learn that it’s estimated about 10 million people around the country suffer from it.
Knowing the symptoms
So, how do you know if you have it? If you’re experiencing any or all of the following symptoms, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us:
- Pain: The most common set of symptoms is pain and tenderness around the jaw, which may spread to the rest of your face. Many nerves are in this area, so the pain might even be referred to the neck and shoulders. This sort of ongoing pain is one of the first signs that something could be wrong.
- Noises: Sometimes a TMJ disorder can cause clicking, grinding, or popping noises when you open your mouth. This is an indication that something is wrong with the joint, and the bones are likely scraping against each other.
- A locked jaw: Sometimes it’s hard to open your mouth, or when you open it wide, it can feel as if it is getting stuck in this position.
- Inflammation: If you notice any redness and swelling around the sides of your lower jaw, this could also be a sign that there is some inflammation in the underlying connective tissues and muscles.
- Chewing and biting: Are you having trouble chewing your food? Does it feel like your upper and lower teeth aren’t coming together properly when you close them together? This could indicate a misalignment of your lower jaw and a possible TMJ problem.
What causes it?
What happens to cause this condition in the first place? The truth is that some people are just genetically more vulnerable than others to TMJ disorders, but it’s common that an injury to the area, such as the back of the neck, the head, or the jaw itself causes it.
In fact, stress and grinding the teeth are among the most common causes of pain and discomfort in the Temporomandibular Joint. Lots of people grind their teeth at night without even knowing it, and when a person is stressed, it can lead to jaw clenching and excessive grinding, which places extra stress on the muscles and joints in the jaw and can cause TMJ disorder.
Let me treat your TMJ condition.
If you think that you might have a TMJ disorder and you’re dealing with the pain and discomfort of it every day, it’s important for you to schedule an appointment through our online portal at Forest HiIls Orthodontic Associates so we can discuss it.
The good news is that a number of treatments are available, including medications, steroid injections, ultrasound therapy, and others. What’s important for you to know is that you don’t have to continue to suffer with it.