TMJ Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis

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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw to the rest of your skull, allowing your mouth to move up and down as you chew or talk. When issues occur with the jaw joint or with the muscles involved with movement of the jaw, a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) may develop.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

  • Limited jaw movement
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Pain in the face, neck, or shoulders
  • Popping, grating, or clicking sounds from opening or closing your mouth
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Ear pain

Causes of TMDs

  • Jaw injury: If you’ve suffered a blow to your jaw, this may have caused your TMJ to become damaged.
  • Autoimmune diseases like arthritis: With autoimmune diseases, your body can’t distinguish between what’s foreign and what’s not. Your body then begins to attack healthy tissue like that of your jaw.
  • Clenching or grinding teeth: Clenching and grinding your teeth puts pressure on your TMJ and the muscles and tissues in your jaw. The damage done by this often-unconscious habit can lead to TMJ disorders.
  • Excessive stress: Being under a lot of stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, including our temporomandibular joint. Stress can cause you to clench or grind your teeth and do damage to your TMJ.

TMJ Disorder Diagnosis

If you have any of the symptoms above, ask your dentist or doctor for a TMJ examination. During the exam, they will feel your jaw and other parts of your face to determine any areas that cause discomfort. Your doctor or dentist will also listen for any clicking or popping of your jaw when you open and close your mouth. They will then proceed to evaluate the extent to which you can move your jaw to see if you have any problems with your jaw's range of motion.

If your dentist or doctor notices any signs that you may have the temporomandibular disorder, they will probably want to do some X-rays and possibly even a CT scan or MRI. For most people, the pain associated with TMJ disorders can be reduced by self-management treatments you can do on your own or other nonsurgical treatments your dentist or doctor recommends. More severe cases of TMD's may require surgical procedures to alleviate jaw pain and other symptoms.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you may have a temporomandibular disorder. Make an appointment with your dentist or doctor to figure out if you’re suffering from a TMJ disorder. They will help you get to the root of the problem and treat your TMD to relieve you of your symptoms.

To learn more about Grand Rapids Dentist Dr. Kent Wildern and the services we offer, please contact us here or call us at (616) 364-8716Kent Wildern DDS and his dental team strive to be the very best at providing our patients with optimal care while making them feel right at home.