Imagine sitting down to eat lunch only to experience a painful popping and clicking noise as soon as your jaw opens. If you find this is happening often, whether it be during eating or even yawning, you may be experiencing Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, more commonly known as TMJ.
The joint that connects your jaw to your head is susceptible to many different conditions, including arthritis, ankylosis, bruxism and trauma. If any of these occur, whether it be from grinding your teeth at night or suffering from a dislocated jaw, TMJ can form. Once you have the disorder, you will hear a clicking and popping noise every time your jaw is opened too wide. You may also feel the joint clicking in and out of place just below your ears.
The popping itself isn’t always painful, but it is accompanied by many addition systems which can be. If TMJ remains untreated, patients may begin to experience migraines, earaches, tooth aches, neck and shoulder pain, dizziness, hearing loss and in some more severe cases, they may be unable to open or close their jaw.
Fortunately, there is help. There are many doctors who specialize in TMJ therapy. It’s important to find someone who is knowledgeable about the diagnosis in order to get the best care. Many dentists or doctors claim to know a lot about TMJ, when in reality, they don’t. Ideally, you should have an examination of your head, neck, face and jaw area. This will make sure that you really do have TMJ and not another joint disorder.
Once TMJ has been confirmed, you can begin treatment. Your doctor will talk to you about which method is best, but some of the common are bite guard, lifestyle change and enameloplasty.
Most people who suffer from TMJ do so because they grind their teeth, often at night when they’re unable to stop themselves. If that’s the case, your dentist will provide you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth. If you’re grinding your teeth absentmindedly during the day, your doctor will suggest lifestyle changes that help you avoid and cope with stress better. Enameloplasty is another treatment option, involving the reshapening of the teeth enamel. This is usually considered a last resort because it involves permanently changing your teeth.