TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It’s the joint that allows our jaws to open and close. By anatomical position, it is situated in front of the ear canal. And like any joints it can give rise to pain when inflammed. However symptoms of TMJ disorder are unlike other usual joints. Most patients will present with ear pain, headache or ear pain on chewing.
Symptoms of TMJ disorder
Pain on chewing
Locking of jaw
Clicking sound during mouth opening
Why does it happen?
Most of the time, it is difficult to determine the actual cause or trauma that relates to TMJ disorder. There are certain risk factors associated such as it occurs more commonly in women between 30 to 50 years of age and those with jaw deformity. It can also be related to rheumatoid arthritis, teeth grinding during sleep or fibromyalgia.
During the doctor’s consultation
A thorough history is taken to assess the condition. Examination of the ear, nose, throat and face area is done to ascertain other causes for the symptoms. The TMJ on both sides is assessed and often is tender on palpation. Clicking or grating sounds can also be heard during mouth opening. Further imaging studies may be required to assess the joints.
Treatment often consists of painkillers and medication to help ease the pain and relax the jaw muscles. Certain jaw exercises can also help, which will be taught by the doctor. These exercises will help to stretch the jaw muscles and reduce the pain.
If there is a very abnormal bite or teeth grinding then the patient is advised to seek corrective dental treatment and use bite guards. Surgery is reserved for very advanced joint disease.
TAKE AWAY ADVICE
Avoid chewing gum or other chewing habits
Eat soft food in small sizes
Avoid eating nuts
Ice packs applied over joint area
Relaxation to reduce stress and jaw clenching