The various muscles and cartilages located at or near the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) makes TMJ disorder a rather complex problem. The nature of the disorder also makes it difficult to detect symptoms, which coupled with physiological factors, need to be carefully understood. The joint is positioned as the meeting point between the bones of the lower mandible (jaw) and upper maxilla (jaw). It is essentially the main faculty that helps humans to open and close their mouths with ease.
Although TMJ symptoms can be noticeable or even pronounced to the sufferer, they often overlap with other disorders hence are not so easily diagnosed. For example, one of the most prominent symptoms of TMJ disorder is that of headaches – due to referred pain from the joint area. Such temporal headaches can also be diagnosed as a symptom of migraines, which can complicate the process of identifying underlying causes. Another common TMJ symptom is jaw clicking or jaw popping. Such symptoms may also be the result of oral habits like excessive gum chewing, teeth grinding or fingernail biting. They may also be caused by a sudden impact or blow to the jaw region. These are not necessarily TMJ-related and may go away after a while. It is worth noting, however that changes to the joint’s characteristics, following the disorder, are typically quite significant.
Despite the possibility of confusing TMJ-like symptoms with those of other disorders, it is still important to be informed about them so that you can refer your suspicions to a dentist to receive a professional diagnosis.
TMJ symptoms vary from person to person, with the most common being: pain in the jaw joint area; pain in the neck or shoulders; teeth grinding; irregular incidents of lockjaw (sudden inability to open or close mouth) and ringing in the ears.
Common symptoms may also be referred to as primary symptoms, which by and large are easier to detect. Although less obvious, secondary symptoms are the ones that provide a clearer indication of a possible disorder in the temporomandibular joint region. Secondary symptoms may be observed in various parts of your mouth, face and body: Chin, cheek, mouth, gums, teeth, throat, head, shoulder and neck.
Here’s a list of some observable secondary symptoms:
- Blur visibility
- Blood red eyes
- Heavy or jammed sensation in the ears
- Vertigo or sense of imbalance
- Migraine (usually giving rise to headaches)
- Sinus issues
- Pain or discomfort in cheek and chin
- Uneven biting (one side biting off greater amounts than the other)
- Erratic tongue movements
- Frequent teeth grinding
- Inability to brush properly
- Acute laryngitis
- Problems in swallowing
- Non-infection soreness in throat
- Stiffened back
If you suffer from one or several of these symptoms, whether primary or secondary, without any good reason or legitimately suspect that you have TMJ disorder, you may wish to see a dentist who can give you a proper examination and evaluate your specific concerns. One of the most common solutions that a dentist can recommend to alleviate your symptoms is that of a TMJ mouth guard. Where necessary, your dentist is also in the best position to refer your problem to a specialist.