Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD) refer to conditions that can cause pain or discomfort in the jaw joint. With TMJ, the muscles, ligaments, joints, and teeth are out of alignment or put under stress. This can create a number of symptoms that may cause you to seek treatment for the disorder.
If you hear a popping or clicking sound in your jaw, it could be a sign of TMJ. Many patients report muscle pain and tenderness in the jaw and other facial muscles. TMJ can make it difficult for a patient to open or close their jaw completely. In severe cases of TMJ, your jaw may even freeze and lock in place. Treatment for a locked jaw can include different therapies or surgery.
What Causes TMJ?
Various factors can cause TMJ, including stress, injury, bone disorders, etc. If you have a high amount of stress in your life, you may clench your jaw out of reflex. High stress can also make people grind or clack their teeth, which is a condition called bruxism.
Grinding and clenching your teeth and jaw can put a lot of stress on your jaw joint. This can irritate the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the area, which can cause discomfort and tension.
A misaligned bite can also cause TMJ. The way your top teeth meet your bottom teeth is called your “bite.” Your teeth should fit together in a natural groove, so when your bite does not sit properly, it can increase the tension in your jaw.
Trauma or injury to your mouth or jaw can damage the jaw joint, decreasing its functionality. Once this happens, you may begin to experience pain or discomfort. The pain and discomfort could become permanent over time, causing TMJ.
Osteoporosis, a disease that weakens the integrity of your bones, can be a contributor to developing TMJ. Osteoporosis can deform the jaw bone, which affects its ability to function and move normally. Osteoarthritis is a chronic pain condition that causes a lot of pain and inflammation in joints, including the jaw joint.
Why Is It Important to Treat TMJ?
TMJ is not a condition that can cause death, but it can create long-term pain and tension. Any significant pain that lingers for long periods is classified as chronic pain. Chronic pain can increase your chances of developing diseases, such as depression and anxiety.
Symptoms from TMJ can also affect your sleep. Constantly shifting to get your jaw comfortable can keep you from falling asleep or staying asleep. Grinding and clenching from TMJ can also alter your sleep pattern. Any time your sleep is affected, you risk insomnia and hormonal imbalances.
Your immune system keeps you from getting sick and helps you to get better. Chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and hormonal imbalances can all influence your body’s ability to fight off infection. Over time, you may find yourself getting sick more often and having difficulty getting well.