Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a condition that affects the joints of the jaw and causes significant pain, mobility issues and other symptoms. There is no real cause or treatment methods method for TMJ which can make it extremely difficult to deal with. This disorder occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw.
The temporomandibular joint is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is immediately in front of the ear on each side of the head. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side and enabling one to talk, chew, and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control the position and movement of the jaw.
Common symptoms of temporomandibular disorder include:
- The most common symptom of this disorder is a headache. The pain is increased when trying to open and close the mouth. Patients may even face severe migraine headache attacks. Other predisposing factors include air conditioning and cold weather. This will cause contraction of the facial muscles, thereby increasing the pain.
- Another common symptom of TMJ is ear pain. This pain is commonly in front of the ear. Occasionally, it also occurs below the ear. The ears can also start ringing, a condition known as tinnitus. The ear pain may or may not be associated with infection in the ear.
- Another symptom associated with this disorder is a popping or grinding sound hen moving the jaw. This is called crepitus. Dizziness is also seen in some patients with this disorder.
- A tired feeling in the face.
- Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite- as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly.
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak or open your mouth wide.
- Swelling on the side of the mouth.
Temporomandibular joint disorder is mainly caused by excessive wear and tear of the joint. One of the main causes of this is teeth grinding. Improper alignment and other problems with the teeth can also result in this disorder. Other factors include any previous fractures or stress. Also, the habit of holding a telephone between the shoulders and the head may be a leading factor.