The temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most frequently used of all joints in the body. Located where the lower jaw joins the temporal bone of the skull, you move it every time you chew, talk, and even swallow. You can locate the joint by putting your finger on the triangular structure in front of your ear, moving your finger just slightly forward and opening your jaw all the way open and shut. The motion you feel is the TMJ joint.
TMJ dysfunction can result in severe headaches, earaches, or spasm in the bones of the face, skull and jaws. It can also cause popping, clicking, or grinding sounds when the jaws are opened widely. TMJ disorders can even produce jaw dislocation, where the jaws lock wide open, or it can prevent the jaws from fully opening. Some people get ringing in their ears from TMJ problems.
TMJ disorders are considered a medical condition and Georgia law is specific in that TMJ disorders can be filed under medical insurance.
If you habitually clench, grit or grind your teeth due to stress or other reasons, you increase the wear and tear on the cartilage lining of the joint. Many people aren't aware they grind their teeth unless someone points it out to them; some people even grind their teeth in their sleep. This can cause severe damage to the TMJ joint. Other causes of TMJ discomfort include chewing gum throughout the day, teeth that do not fit together, and chewing habitually on one side of the mouth (due to dental work). When these behaviors cause the cartilage lining of the joint to wear down to the nerve endings, pain occurs. This is actually a form of arthritis that is known as TMJ dysfunction, and it can happen to people of all ages.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ disorders or know that you habitually grind your teeth, you should see a TMJ specialist immediately. Early treatment of TMJ problems produces the fastest results with the least amount of medical intervention.
Think you have TMJ? See if any of the symptoms below match yours: