Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ, affects roughly 12% of the population at any given time, though many people experience it as a transitory condition. The condition itself is actually caused by a number of other issues such as certain forms of arthritis, traumatic injury, infection, malocclusion (bad bite) or even some dental procedures. What is happening to your jaw when you have TMJ and what are some common symptoms and treatments?

woman suffering from a migraine headache

TMJ Can Be a Pain in the Neck…

TMJ stems from an issue with the temporomandibular joint which are your two jaw joints on the left and right side of your face. These joints connect the mandible (your jawbone) with the temporal bones on the sides of your head and are connected by temporal muscle. The mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve runs along the temporomandibular joint and is responsible for carrying sensory information from the lower lip, lower gums and teeth, the chin and jaw, some of the external ear, and parts of the meninges (membrane that envelops the brain and spinal cord).

Any kind of misalignment or trauma of the temporomandibular joint can lead to TMJ, which can lead to many different symptoms.

Common symptoms involving the function of the joint itself include a misaligned bite, clicking when you open or close your jaw, and difficulty fully opening or closing your jaw. The temporal muscles can also be overworked because the displaced jaw won’t let them find a comfortable, relaxed position, causing muscle soreness and stiffness from the jaw up to the temple. Some people experience dizziness or ringing in the ears. As if that is not enough, if the misalignment or damage is severe enough, the mandibular nerve can be pinched or damaged causing migraine headaches, and neck and shoulder pain.

…But Can Be Managed

Given the wide array of symptoms associated with TMJ, it can be hard to detect at home, and even diagnosis by a doctor is difficult. Many people with TMJ are misdiagnosed with many other conditions. If you find that you are dealing with tension headaches on a regular basis, try lightly holding a pencil in between your teeth. If you find that it helps with your headaches then you should consider visiting with a dentist to see if TMJ is the cause of your pain. A good dental appliance will help position your jaw in a way that relaxes the temporomandibular joint, relieving pain. At Contemporary Dentistry, we will work with your other health care providers to make sure that you are getting the best level of care possible. If you live in the Rochester area and would like to schedule an appointment with Drs. Arlene Messer, Anna Belous, and Alessandro Geminiani, please give us a call at (585) 244-3337 today.