What is a temporomandibular joint disorder?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jaw to the skull, which is located in front of your ear. You have one joint on each side of your mouth. At the jaw joint, muscles, ligaments, and bones work together as a system. When the system is healthy, you can talk, chew and yawn in comfort.
What causes temporomandibular joint disorders?
The TMJ and muscles make up a complex, closely connected system. Because of this, a problem in one part of the system can affect other parts. Injury to your jaw bone, teeth, the joint itself, or the muscles of your head and neck can cause temporomandibular joint disorder. Certain behaviors such as grinding or clinching your teeth may cause problems with the joint.
What are common symptoms?
Temporomandibular joint disorder often causes severe pain and discomfort. It can be temporary or last for many years. It may affect one or both sides of your face.
Common symptoms include:
-Pain or tenderness in your ear, neck and shoulders
-Ringing in the ears or decreased hearing
-Headaches or dizziness
-Problems opening your mouth wide
-Difficulty chewing, a sudden uncomfortable bite, or toothaches
-Clicking, popping, or grating sounds with jaw movement
-Jaw “sticking” or “locking” in the open or closed position
How is temporomandibular joint disorder diagnosed?
Your provider will perform an exam of your head and neck. This may include pressing (palpating) the muscles and jaw joint to check for pain, tension, and tenderness as well as assessing jaw range of motion. Though we may have diagnosed the temporomandibular joint disorder, ENT specialists do not treat TMJ problems. For relief of your symptoms, you will be referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or dentist with expertise in temporomandibular joint disorder for further care and treatment.
Some suggestions to help relieve symptoms:
1. Eat soft foods. Cut food into small pieces. Skip hard, crunchy foods, chewy foods and large bites that require you to open wide.
2. Avoid extreme jaw movements. Keep yawning and chewing (especially gum or ice) to a minimum and don’t yell or sing or do anything that causes you to open wide.
3. Don’t rest your chin on your hand. Don’t hold the telephone between your shoulder and ear. 4. Don’t sleep on your jaw. Sleeping on your stomach or side causes part of the body’s weight to fall on the lower jaw, forcing it laterally and unbalancing it.
5. Practice good posture to reduce neck and facial pain.
6. Keep your teeth slightly apart as often as you can. This will relieve pressure on your jaw. Put your tongue between your teeth to control clinching or grinding during the day.
7. Learn relaxation techniques to help loosen up your jaw.