TMJ is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint which is the joint that hinges the upper and lower jaw. It is quite a complicated joint as it has two smaller joints that enable the jaw to move from side to side and backwards and forwards as well as up-and-down. A disc of cartilage acts as a shock absorber to keep everything moving smoothly and everything is connected by muscles, nerves and blood vessels.
When everything is working as it should, there should be no pain during normal functions such as eating, talking and yawning. However when this joint is stressed or damaged the symptoms can be quite wide-ranging and uncomfortable or painful. Luckily most cases of TMJ are quite treatable and most sufferers can learn how to manage this condition, but it is best to seek treatment sooner rather than later to alleviate any long-lasting damage to the joint. This is because the cartilage disc can become worn through overuse in those who have TMJ. Most people will not develop a full TMJ and symptoms will subside when the jaw is rested. Symptoms include:
- Hearing the joint pop or click whenever you open your mouth, and some people also hear or feel a grating sound. This can indicate that the disc in the joint is slightly out of position. Sometimes this sound can be loud enough to be heard several feet away.
- Feeling pain around the temporomandibular joint when eating or speaking, or when the joint is pressed lightly.
- Having facial, neck or shoulder pain which is caused by the inflammation of the tissue around the temporomandibular joint.
- Being unable to open the jaw fully so that eating or yawning is uncomfortable or painful.
- Feeling as if your teeth meet together incorrectly as TMJ can move the jaw out of alignment, and in fact can cause abnormal movement of the jaw.
- Having loose teeth, as if the teeth don’t meet together correctly they are more likely to be under additional pressure during biting and eating which can cause them to become loose over time. Occasionally this may be enough for them to fall out.
- Suffering from pain in the ears, or feeling as if your ears are ringing, or even suffering hearing loss.
- Having headaches or feeling dizzy or nauseous.
- Having broken sleep or feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. Some studies have shown that sufferers of TMJ are more likely to have these symptoms due to their condition.
- Suffering from bruxism, as this condition is known to aggravate TMJ, and people who suffer from severe bruxism are far more likely to suffer from TMJ. This is because the action of bruxism results in the clenching of the jaw muscles which can cause inflammatory reactions in the jaw creating pain. People suffering from bruxism are far more likely have ground their teeth down changing their height which puts extra pressure on the temporomandibular joint as the teeth no longer meet together correctly.
- Having swelling around the jaw area due to the inflammation.
- Having difficulty swallowing due to the muscle spasms caused by TMJ.