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5 Signs of a TMJ Disorder

5 Signs of a TMJ Disorder

It’s morning and time to start your day, but you’ve spent yet another sleepless night tossing and turning. You’ve been under a lot of pressure at work lately, so at first you chalk it up to stress. But then you yawn and notice that your jaw is sore.

Well that’s new. At first you think maybe you were just absentmindedly grinding your teeth in your sleep. You brush it off thinking that it’s no big deal; you’ll just mention it to your dentist at your next appointment. While it’s true that bruxism or teeth grinding often causes jaw pain, so can other conditions like a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder.

In this blog, our own Dr. Pendleton explains 5 signs of a TMJ disorder so that you can get the treatment you need to relieve your discomfort and get back to feeling more like yourself again.

TMJ disorder explained

Let’s start unpacking this topic by explaining what the temporomandibular joint is. The temporomandibular joint is the name for the two joints located in front of your ears. These joints act like complex hinges that connect your skull to your lower jawbone.

Through carefully choreographed coordination with ligaments and muscles in the face and neck, discs, and bones like the jawbone and the largest bone in the skull, the mandible, the temporomandibular joints execute key actions like yawning, chewing, speaking, chewing and swallowing.

But for more than 10 million Americans, some issue with the temporomandibular joint or with the muscles that control the jaw, disrupt proper movement. When this happens the condition is referred to as a temporomandibular joint disorder. The name actually refers to the collection of 30 plus maladies that cause dysfunction and pain in the temporomandibular joint and muscles controlling movement in the jaw. 

Diagnosing and treating a TMJ disorder can be tricky as finding the underlying cause of the condition can be challenging at best. Further complicating matters is that many TMJ disorder symptoms are fairly common to other unrelated issues.

Here at Pendleton Orthodontics, at your initial consultation, Dr. Pendleton and our highly experienced team conducts a thorough examination of your jaw to observe its range of motion. We’ll also take a deeper dive by performing digital X-rays or CT scans so we can examine the joint up close. These diagnostics allow us to detect signs of erosion to the disc, cartilage, or soft tissue. 

1. Headache or neck pain

The symptoms of a TMJ disorder manifest differently from patient to patient, which makes the examination and X-rays that much more important. Many patients suffering from a TMJ disorder come to us with ambiguous symptoms, such as a headache or neck pain. For some, the pain seems to radiate from the jaw, or within the face and neck muscles. While others describe it as a headache radiating from behind their eyes. 

2. Earaches or tinnitus

Because temporomandibular joints are in such close proximity to the auditory canal, it should come as no surprise that earaches are also a fairly common symptom of a TMJ disorder. Some TMJ disorder sufferers may also experience a ringing sound, also known as tinnitus. 

3. Clicking or popping sound when opening or closing the mouth

Another telltale sign of a TMJ disorder is hearing a popping, clicking, or grating sound when you open or close your mouth. The sound at times can be loud enough for someone next to you to hear it. A shifting of the disc inside the temporomandibular joint is the source of the actual sound.

4. Trouble opening your mouth wide

Some patients with a TMJ disorder experience limited function of the jaw, which will manifest by having difficulty opening their mouth wide. Activities like brushing your teeth or eating foods that require you to open your mouth wide may prove to be challenging. 

5.  Jaws get stuck in an opened or closed position

Still other patients with a TMJ disorder experience problems with limited movement of the jaw or a locked jaw situation in which the jaw seems to get stuck in an open or closed position.

Fortunately these varied and awkward symptoms in most cases can be addressed through nonsurgical treatments. Here at Pendleton Orthodontics we’ve helped our patients suffering from a TMJ disorder by creating custom treatment plans, which may include physical therapy, oral splints, medication management, education on lifestyle changes to prevent clenching or bruxism, and joint injections. Surgery is used only as a last resort if minimally invasive treatment options have failed.

If you have ongoing jaw pain or think you may be suffering from a TMJ disorder, book a consultation at Pendleton Orthodontics in Leander, Texas, right away. Request an appointment online, or call us today at 512-504-7496.

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