Temporomandibular Joint Disorder: Causes and Symptoms

Today's post is authored by MedEq's Co-Founder, Nour Mahmoud

About 15% of American adults suffer from "chronic facial pain, such as jaw pain, headaches, or earaches. (1)" The hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of each ear is known as Temporomandibular joint (Webmd). It functions very differently from any other joint in the body. Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) which is commonly known as "TMJ" can refer to various conditions that have an effect on TM joints, jaw muscles, and facial nerves. It is more common in women than men along with those between the ages of 20.  TMD can occur when the jaw twists during opening, closing or side-motion movements (1).  The trigeminal nerve is the motor nerve for the jaw muscles, when these muscles are damaged it may disrupt the trigeminal nerve and cause TMJ disorder (4).

People with TMJ may experience certain symptoms that include: pain in or around the ear, headaches and necks aches, toothaches, jaw pain when chewing, biting or yawning, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth and sensitive teeth when no other dental problems can be found (1).

There are several factors that cause TMD including Arthritis, improper bite ( how teeth fit together), jaw dislocation, trauma, wear and tear due to aging and clenching or grinding teeth also known as bruxism (1). Stress is also considered to be a factor of TMD, strenuous activities or stressful situations can aggravate TMD by causing overuse of the jaw muscle (1).

There is no accepted Standard test to identify TMD, however according to Delta Dental Plans Associations, the symptoms combined with a physical examination of jaw and face by your dentist provides an idea for diagnosing this disorder (1).  Some recommended treatments include pain relievers,  muscle relaxants, your dentists might also prescribe a night-guard to prevent teeth grinding during sleep, or fix poorly aligned teeth which includes orthodontic treatment (1).  

For a more comical take on TMJ, take a look at this episode of popular Youtube Channel: Good Mythical Morning:
 

References:

1. https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/tmj.html

2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/multimedia/temporomandibular-joint/img-20007309

3. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/temporomandibular-disorders-tmd

4. http://mimismiles.com/5-important-facts-about-tmj/

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