Temporomandibular Disorder: Do You Have TMJ?

In actuality, using the phrase “You have TMJ” is inaccurate. TMJ is neither a disease nor syndrome. It is the joint in front of your ear that allows the jaw to move. 

TMJ = Temporomandibular Joint
TMD = Temporomandibular Dysfunction or Disorder

In order to open and close your mouth to eat or speak, your TM Joints must be functioning properly. We all have two TM Joints, one on the right and one on the left. These joints, which are moved by muscles and stabilized by ligaments, are therefore part of an orthopedic system, which can be compromised by overuse, disease, or trauma. Once present, a TMD problem is typically associated with pain and/or limitation of jaw function.

Since the face and mouth are so highly personal, a TMD problem can lead to significant levels of concern and suffering.

When the TM complex is compromised, there is the potential for a wide variety of symptoms. Because a Temporomandibular Disorder can give rise to so many variable symptoms, making a proper diagnosis is rather difficult.

The symptoms classically associated with Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD) include:

  • Limitation of jaw range of motion
  • Painful jaw range of motion
  • TM joint clicking
  • TM joint locking
  • A sense of a bite discrepancy
  • Tension in the face
  • Daily headaches in the temples
  • Morning headaches on arising
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Jaw pain while eating
  • Neck Tension

In addition, ear symptoms are rather common when a Temporomandibular Disorder is present. Ear symptoms can include pain, a sensation of stuffiness or fullness, and a variety of odd sounds such as ringing, humming, buzzing, and whistling. Other less frequent symptoms include:

  • Loss of balance and a sense of unsteadiness
  • Tingling sensations in the face and jaw

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Symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorder

Some of these symptoms are directly related to the muscles of the face and/or TMJoint while others have their origins in the upper neck region.

The Temporomandibular Joint apparatus does not stand by itself, but is rather part of a highly balanced orthopedic system including the head, neck, and shoulder regions. Problems in the upper neck and shoulder region can produce Temporomandibular Dysfunction. Less frequently TMJ problems can lead to neck and shoulder pain and/or dysfunction.

The Temporomandibular region is often overlooked during examinations for facial pain, unless conducted by a dentist/dental specialist, and/or oral surgeon. The majority of medical schools do not spend a great deal of time educating their students with regard to the Temporomandibular apparatus, and therefore this is an area that is often passed over.

Though many Temporomandibular Disorder problems are self-limited, others produce major disruption of one’s life with pain and suffering continuing over long periods of time. Once a diagnosis of Temporomandibular Dysfunction has been made, treatment options can likely include; education, medication, dietary modification, habit breaking strategies, jaw and neck exercises, muscle injections, oral bite plates, physiotherapy, and tension relieving activities.

At times, if there is significant anatomic disruption within the TM Joints, Temporomandibular Surgery consultation may be advised. Contact my NYC or Long Island offices today if you are experiencing TMJ pain. Pain Relief Lives Here!

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