TMJ is an acronym for temporomandibular joint, better known as the jaw joint. TMJ problems can affect people of all ages, although patients under the age of 40 are more susceptible and it occurs more often in women.
The temporomandibular joint lies between the lower jaw, or mandible, and the skull. It’s wildly mobile, a hula dancing hinge that goes side to side, backward, forward, up, down. It can exert 650 to 1,000 pounds of force per square inch.
The causes include stress, missing teeth or shifted teeth, injury, habitual clenching or grinding, even hard foods. A deep overbite, which holds the lower teeth back and keeps the jaw from relaxing, increases the risk.
Estrogen plays a role in women under 50, but men — usually after an injury — can also develop TMJ.
TMJ Syndrome symptoms include:
- Headache: Approximately 80% of patients with a TMJ disorder complain of headache, and 40% report facial pain. Pain is often made worse while opening and closing the jaw. Exposure to cold weather or air-conditioned air may increase muscle contraction and facial pain.
- Ear pain: The ear pain is usually described as being in front of or below the ear. Because ear pain occurs so commonly, ear specialists are frequently called on to make the diagnosis of a TMJ disorder.
- Sounds: Grinding, crunching, clicking, or popping sounds, medically termed crepitus, are common for patients with a TMJ disorder.
- Dizziness: Some patients with a TMJ disorder report a vague sense of dizziness or imbalance (usually not a spinning type vertigo). The cause of this type of dizziness is not well understood.
- Fullness of the ear: Other patients with a TMJ disorder describe muffled, clogged, or full ears. These symptoms are usually caused by eustachian-tube dysfunction.
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus): For unknown reasons, some patients with a TMJ disorder experience noise or ringing in the ears. Tinnitus will usually go away after successful treatment of the TMJ disorder.
Left untreated, the TMJ symptoms increase in number and severity as you get older.
Contact Dr. Braverman, dentist in Jupiter, Florida, today to seek help if you believe you have TMJ symptoms.
Learn more about TMJ @ The TMJ Association.
– By Charles Braverman