TMJ is the common name used to refer to temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ is a disorder of the joint that connects the jaw to the skull on either side of the head. It is a common ailment more prevalent in women than men that is suffered by approximately 65% of Americans at some point throughout their lifetime.
Temporomandibular joint disorder can have several causes, most of which can be easily diagnosed and treated by a TMJ dentist. It is highly suggested that anyone suffering from TMJ visit their dentist as soon as possible, as TMJ left untreated can worsen drastically in a matter of hours and can lead to a variety of serious health problems.
TMJ is often connected with or caused by bruxism, or teeth grinding. When TMJ symptoms include teeth grinding, the wear and tear on a sufferer’s teeth can change the shape of the sufferer’s teeth, affect the sufferer’s bite, and expose their prematurely worn teeth to decay and disease. Teeth grinding brought on by TMJ can also cause headaches and tension in the neck. Often the pain of these ailments will lead to restless nights and can even develop into insomnia. In rare cases, the insomnia brought on by TMJ can lead to depression and have a negative impact on the sufferer’s job performance, relationships, and mental stability.
Teeth grinding caused by or leading to TMJ can be easily corrected with a custom fitted night guard. Such a night guard can be crafted by a dentist from a mold of the patient’s teeth. Custom night guards protect the teeth while reducing pressure on the jaw, reducing headaches and allowing for a restful night’s sleep.
Untreated TMJ can have other affects on a person’s oral health as well. It can cause a sufferer to favor one side of their mouth to such an extent that the teeth wear unevenly, the bite shifts, and muscles overdevelop on one side, leaving the sufferer with a lopsided appearance that is extremely difficult to reverse. Untreated TMJ can also lead some people to eating disorders as they will resort to a liquid diet or avoid food altogether to minimize their jaw pain.
Because the temporomandibular joint is so near the ear, significant ear problems can develop as a result of TMJ. Anything ranging from slight pain in the ears to premature loss of hearing can result from TMJ. Some sufferers of TMJ experience damage to their inner ear, which can cause problems with balance or dizziness. Likewise, vision problems can develop as a consequence of TMJ.
The pain felt by TMJ sufferers is not limited to the jaw, though jaw pain can sometimes become so severe that the jaw will lock itself in an open position. In these cases a trip to the emergency room is required to forcibly unlock the jaw. Pain felt by TMJ sufferers can extend to the neck, head, eyes, ears, teeth and shoulders.
Many sufferers try to simply mask their pain instead of addressing it directly with a trip to a TMJ dentist. Self medication with pain pills can temporarily alleviate the pain brought on by TMJ, but in rare cases, the reliance on pills can become so severe that pain medication addictions develop. In fact, there are several reported cases of TMJ sufferers falling victim to alcoholism and/or drug abuse.
TMJ left untreated can become aggravated by talking, eating, and yawning, leading to nearly constant pain that can develop into serious health disorders. And yet the causes of TMJ are usually easily and non-surgically corrected in one trip to a dentist’s office. There is simply no reason to live with the pain. The risks of leaving TMJ untreated simply aren’t worth it.