If you have observed pain in your jaw’s joint area whenever you opened your mouth or made chewing movements, then you might have temporomandibular joint disorder or as it is usually called TMJ. This condition results when there are problems with the jaw, jaw joints or nearby muscles that cause pain when slight movements put these regions at work.
The Temporomandibular Joint
The TMJ is the hinge joint which connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone and the rest of the skull. This portion is in front of the ear and is found on each side of the head. These flexible joints allow the muscles to slide up and down whenever you open and close your mouth as well as side to side which enables subtle nuances in movement such as when you talk or chew.
The main cause of TMJ could not yet be established although there are a number of reasons for why this disorder may arise. For instance, the problem could arise from the jaw muscles themselves or the pain could emanate from the main joint. Head and neck injuries can also trigger TMJ such as in the case of heavy blows as well as whiplash. Bruxism, or the pathologic grinding of teeth, may also lead to the exertion of excess force into the joints which can cause the pain. Problems with the positioning of the soft cushion could also lead to problems with the ball and socket portion of the joint. Lastly, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to the irritation of the TMJ.
TMJ Signs and Symptoms
The pain which is associated with TMJ can be felt for a short period of time or may last for a couple of years. Females are more susceptible to TMJ while this condition is more common among individuals aged 20 to 40.
TMJ pain may radiate from the affected joint all the way to the neck and shoulders as well as around the ears especially when one chews, speaks or opens his or her mouth. Individuals with TMJ may also have a limited ability to open their mouth and their jaws could get stuck or get locked whenever they talk. It is also common for TMJ sufferers to suddenly develop an uncomfortable bite and swelling may occur in one or both sides of the face. Other symptoms include tinnitus, hearing problems, earaches, headaches, neck aches and pain in the upper shoulders.
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