TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) is a disorder that can affect people of all ages. It is a condition that develops when the Temporomandibular joint (the joint that connects the person's jawbone to their skull) does not function properly. Some people are affected on both sides of their head, while others experience problems only on one side.
People who have TMJ can experience a variety of different symptoms. Some of the most common include having a stiff jaw, constant ear pain, or pain that will not easily go away without some type of treatment. Many have problems when they are eating since the pain is often generated when they are chewing their food. Others may have consistent and nagging headaches and they are usually hard to treat and identify. Although these are some of the more common symptoms, there are other symptoms that have been reported by patients that have this condition.
Unfortunately, there are many identifiable causes of TMJ and they include an improper bite, the clenching or grinding of teeth, various kinds of arthritis, injuries, mistakes made during a dental or medical procedure, the overuse of the jaw, and stress. These TMJ causes can make TMJ disorder much more likely than what would normally be expected.
As stated above, an improper bite is one of the main causes of TMJ, since the improper bite makes the person place excess stress on their chewing muscles. The chewing muscles are adversely affected because the individual's teeth are lined up incorrectly when they are eating. When this condition is not treated, the individual can experience a certain amount of pain along with muscle spasms around their jaw area. These alignment problems can also lead to the person's jaw sliding out of its socket.
The clenching and grinding of teeth can also cause this condition, especially because the clinching and grinding can wear away the individual's cartilage. This means, when the cartilage is worn down, the bone is rubbed on bone and it creates the symptoms of TMJ. Unfortunately, grinding of teeth normally occurs when the individual is asleep and they may not be aware that they are doing it. Some of the symptoms of grinding can be identified, however, by jaw pain and ear pain that cannot be easily explained. Dentists can also identify problems with grinding and clenching by examining the teeth for wear and tear signs.
In addition to clenching and grinding, arthritis is also one of the causes of TMJ. Degenerative arthritis and osteoarthritis in the jaw area are two of the types of arthritis that can lead to TMJ, specifically because they can cause the jawbone to be displaced or dislocated. When the jawbone is dislocated, the individual can begin hearing popping, grating and clicking sounds and they can also experience a lot of pain when they open or close their mouth. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a major issue for many. Some of these individuals have a higher risk of not being able to move their jaw at all.
Some dental and other medical procedures can be responsible for causing TMJ. For instance, if a patient has to have a breathing tube inserted into their mouth, the jaw is often fixed in a certain position for an extended amount of time. When this occurs, the patient can suffer from the overuse of that jawbone and TMJ may be the result.
Stress is also listed as a common cause of TMJ. This is one of the contributing factors because it can make an individual involuntarily tighten their facial muscles and jaw muscles, while they are also clenching their teeth together.
Once the person has identified the cause of TMJ, they can search for a viable solution. This is a very important step because the treatment that the person receives is based on the actual cause of the problem. For example, if the cause of the problem is an improper bite, the dentist can evaluate the problem and they may recommend a mandibular position device. Normally, when the doctor prescribes this type of device, the patient is instructed to wear them for a short timeframe in order to relieve the symptoms and pain that they are experiencing. On the other hand, if TMJ is caused by stress, the physician will usually recommend relaxation as well as other stress relieving techniques.
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