Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is a syndrome that occurs when the joint between the jaw and skull is injured.
Causes and Symptoms
The exact cause of TMJ is a mystery, and varies from case to case. Misalignment of the jaw or trauma to the teeth seem to be the most obvious, but teeth grinding, bad posture, arthritis, excessive gum chewing and stress or anxiety have all been more common causes in the last couple of centuries. Some specialists argue that some of these are symptoms of TMJ, not causes.
Additional symptoms of TMJ are pain or tingling in the jaw joint, ears, and face, a popping or clicking of the jaw or in the ears, plugged feeling in the ears, head, neck, or shoulder aches, and lockjaw.
How it’s Diagnosed and Treated
Unfortunately, there is no specific test to confirm a jaw problem is TMJ. Often a doctor will examine your medical history or take an MRI of the jaw to check for cartridge damage. Then they will send the patient to a dentist specializing in jaw disorders or an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor for diagnosis confirmation.
There are no real ways to correct the issue. Doctor’s may recommend physical therapy or massage to ease the joint, or a jaw sprint to force non-use. Old fashion, at-home care may offer the best combination of successful cure. Relaxation or breathing techniques can minimize stress. Cold compresses can help with inflammation or pain. Temporarily avoiding tough or chewy food (and gum) can also allow the joint to recover. In very extreme cases that could cause further medical issues (prolonged lockjaw or excessive pain), Botox or medical marijuana (in legalized states) may be used to relax the muscles or more intensive pain killers or anti-inflammatory drugs could be prescribed. Surgery on the jaw or teeth is a last resort effort when all other options have been exhausted.