Understanding Temporomandibular (TMJ) Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular joint disorder

TMJ disorder (“temporomandibular joint disorder,” sometimes colloquially referred to as “TMJ”) affects anywhere between five and 12 percent of the United States population, and an estimated 20 to 30 percent of the population worldwide. But it can be a tricky condition to understand, diagnose, and treat. Here are a few common common questions about TMJ, TMJ symptoms, and TMJ treatments.

“What is TMJ disorder?” TMJ disorder is an inflammation of one or both of the joints connecting the jawbone to the skull. The inflammation can be caused by stress, bruxism (teeth grinding), infection, or any other pathology commonly associated with irritation and inflammation.

“How do I know if I have TMJ disorder?” Most suffering from TMJ disorder notice a “popping” or “clicking” sound when they open their mouths past a certain point. Other TMJ symptoms include pain after chewing, difficulty opening the mouth wide, earaches, headaches, and even temporary dislocation of the jaw after yawning. Bruxism and TMJ disorder often seem to go hand-in-hand, as one may lead to the other — if you grind your teeth at night, it’s likely you may suffer from TMJ disorder at some point in your life as well.

“How can I fix it?” In many young patients, TMJ disorder usually resolves itself as the jawbone and teeth reach maturity. In older patients whose symptoms may be the result of stress or infection, the treatments can range from stretching exercises to different types of braces or splints to surgical intervention in the most extreme cases (though those are exceedingly rare). In either patient, old or young, TMJ symptoms can be managed with relaxation, common painkillers, and anti-inflammatory medication.

TMJ disorder is by no means uncommon or untreatable. If you think you’re suffering from TMJ disorder, schedule a visit with your general practitioner, your dentist, or a TMJ specialist. If your symptoms are in fact a result of TMJ disorder, they can recommend a course of action that can help you manage and eventually alleviate this uncomfortable condition. Visit here for more information.

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