Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a condition that affects the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. There are a few different signs of TMJ, including popping or clicking when you open your mouth. However, one of the most common complaints is pain. While TMJ can cause discomfort and pain, its impact extends beyond mere discomfort. Without treatment, TMJ can progress and can cause a lot of damage to your dental and overall health. It is crucial to talk to your dentist when you notice the signs and symptoms of TMJ.
The TMJ Basics: Unraveling the Jaw Joint
The TMJ connects your jawbone to your skull, allowing you to speak, chew, and move your jaw. You may not even realize how crucial this joint is–until you begin feeling pain. When this joint is impaired, it can lead to a range of oral health issues. Because there are important muscles and ligaments in this area, you can also experience issues in areas other than the joint.
Dental Alignment and Bite Problems
TMJ disorders often cause misalignment of the jaw, leading to bite problems. When your bite is not properly aligned, it can result in excessive wear on certain teeth and uneven tooth pressure. You can become more susceptible to tooth breaks as well. These dental alignment issues may require orthodontic treatment to restore harmony and protect your oral health.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Many individuals with TMJ also suffer from bruxism. This is a condition where a person grinds or clenches their teeth. They may not realize they have it because it is common for it to occur during sleep. Bruxism exerts excessive force on your teeth, leading to enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, and even cracked teeth. Your dentist may recommend a customized nightguard to protect your teeth and alleviate the effects of bruxism.
Headaches and Facial Pain
TMJ disorders commonly manifest as headaches and facial pain. The jaw joint’s dysfunction can result in chronic headaches or migraines. Sometimes, this pain can feel like an earache. Because of the intricate muscle connection, TMJ can also cause muscle soreness in the face. Constant headaches and facial pain can detract from your well-being and overall health.
Tension and Stress
Stress and tension are often closely linked to TMJ disorders. The pressures of daily life can lead to increased clenching and grinding, exacerbating the symptoms of TMJ. Conversely, the discomfort caused by TMJ can further contribute to stress and tension. Stress management techniques like meditation and exercise can help break this cycle and alleviate TMJ-related symptoms.
TMJ and Gum Health
TMJ disorders can indirectly affect your gum health as well. The misalignment of the jaw joint can lead to poor oral hygiene. This usually occurs because it can be difficult to brush and floss properly. Inadequate oral hygiene practices may result in gum inflammation, gum disease, and bad breath. Regular dental visits and professional cleanings are crucial to monitoring and maintaining healthy gums.