The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint of the jaw that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull. This joint is an articular disc composed of fibrocartilagenous tissue. It comprises, all in all, of six parts: mandibular condyles, articular surface of the temporal bone, capsule, articular disc, ligaments and lateral pterygoid. The TMJ facilitates movement of the jaws, thereby allowing essential functions like talking, eating and swallowing. Needless to say, the slightest afflictions caused to this joint, disrupt a great deal of its basic functions.
Symptoms of TMJ
The symptoms of TMJ disorder can vary from individual to individual but usually there are a defined series of symptoms which may appear altogether or over a period of time in clusters.
Most of the symptoms are likely to occur on or around the jaw area. If you are suffering from TMJ disorder, there are chances that you will feel discomfort in your head, face, mouth, eyes, ears and even back. Contrary to popular belief, toothache is often a symptom rather than a cause of the TMJ disorder. The most common symptoms of TMJ disorder are clicking or grating noises on opening and closing the mouth. These noises occur when there is a slight dislocation of the jaw bones. They herald the onset of a TMJ disorder and must be paid attention to immediately.
For convenience of understanding, the symptoms can be divided into categories, based on which area they are exhibited. These categories are as follows:
- Symptoms of the face and neck: These symptoms include pain in the jaw, jaw joint, teeth and in the muscles of the cheek. More complicated symptoms would involve uncontrollable tongue and jaw movements, teeth clenching during sleep and locking of the jaw resulting in the inability to open or close the mouth properly. Frequent coughing, intense salivation and voice moderations are among the lesser diagnosed but highly significant symptoms of TMJ disorder.
- Symptoms of the Head: Aches in the forehead, migraine attacks and sinus pain are some of the common symptoms that occur in the head. Tinnitus, hearing problems, dizziness and lack of balance, clogged ears and blurred vision are other related symptoms.
- Symptoms throughout the body: Often the pain and discomfort may spread to other parts of the body. These symptoms would involve soreness in the neck and in the shoulders, stiff neck, pain in the lower back and tingling in the tips of fingers and toes. More chronic symptoms include arthritis, reduced motion of limbs and extremely cold sensation in the hands and legs.
Most TMJ disorder symptoms overlap with symptoms of other health conditions. This is why contacting a dentist never occurs to most people suffering from the symptoms of TMJ disorder. The type and intensity of the symptoms may vary greatly from person to person. It is important to contact a health care practitioner at an early stage. One must at all costs avoid bad habits like bruxism and bad body posture. TMJ disorders are caused due to reasons ranging from mental stress to physical injury. It is best, therefore, to adopt a method of treatment that will be wholesome and multi-dimensional.
Holistic treatments seek to treat the root cause of the condition thereby eradicating the problem in its entirety and preventing it from happening further. For instance, developing relaxation routines to bust stress and performing jaw and neck exercises to strengthen the TM joint would help to rejuvenate and sustain the degenerating muscles of the joint. Similarly, eating food rich in minerals and vitamins to invigorate the jaw muscles and combining it with healthy habits such as correct body postures would go a long way in healing the condition and restoring your body to a state of well being.
It is worth pointing out that you can experience some or all of these symptoms in clusters when the problem appears and in extreme cases they may experience most of the conditions.
If you are diagnosed as suffering from TMJ the first thing your doctor will do is prescribe a course of anti-inflammatory drugs to try and reduce any swelling that may occur. You should note that although in the first stages swelling may not be visible it may be occurring in and around the soft tissue of the jaw. This in itself can lead to toothache if not treated as the tissue pushes against the roots of the teeth embedded in the gums.
Not everyone develops TMJ in its fullest form and they might only experience a number of symptoms but not all of them. If this is the case your doctor will prescribe what he or she thinks is the best course of medicine to help combat the problem.
Ordinary pain relief medication, such as that which can be bought over the counter, can be used to help combat the issue of pain but you may need to have a course of anti-inflammatory drugs to help relief any infection.
Warm flannels or a lukewarm water bottle may also help to relief the pain of the jaw but this should only be used sparingly.
This article is based on the book, “TMJ No More” by Sandra Carter.
Sandra is an author, researcher, nutritionist and health consultant who dedicated her life to creating the ultimate TMJ disorders solution guaranteed to permanently reverse the root cause of TMJ and dramatically improve the overall quality of your life, without the use prescription medication and without any surgical procedures. Learn more by visiting her website.