Pain in the head and neck, as well as jaw dysfunction, are very common conditions that can be easily resolved or complicated by a variety of factors. Jaw pain, also known as "TMJ," but more accurately known as TMD or Temporomandibular Disorder, can be extremely frustrating to experience and treat, depending on the circumstances.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorder or TMJ Pain
- Headache / Migraine
- Jaw joint pain
- Limited mouth opening
- Ear congestion
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loose teeth
- Sleep apnea
- Clenching or grinding
- Jaw joint clicking or popping
- Chewing difficulties
- Eye pain, ear pain
- Postural problem - neck, back pain
- Tingling of the fingers
- Hot and cold-sensitive teeth
- Nervousness or insomnia
- Facial pain
How can all of these symptoms be related to the teeth and bite?
The lower jaw is made up of two joints known as Temporomandibular Joints (TMJs). The TMJ is characterized by a condyle of the head that rests in a depression directly in front of both ears. You can feel the joints moving down and forward as you open and close your fingers in front of your ears. The joint, as well as ligaments, muscles, and tendons, hold the lower jaw in place.
If the bite is misaligned from acute trauma or long-term “bad bite” the soft tissues around the joint can be compressed and inflamed.
This TMJ pain can cause symptoms of ear pain as the complex nerves and delicate muscles are out of balance, sending pain to the neck, shoulders, and back. This is known as referred pain.
What causes TMJ disorders?
The temporomandibular joint has a hinge action as well as sliding motions. The cartilage-covered parts of the bones that interact in the joint are separated by a small shock-absorbing disc, which normally keeps the movement smooth. TMJ disorders can be painful if:
- The disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
- The joint's cartilage is damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact
However, in many cases, the cause of TMJ disorders is unknown, and some risk factors include arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, jaw injury, chronic tooth grinding, and connective tissue disease.
Treating TMJ Facial Pain
The approach to treat TMJ pain at Legacy Dental is based on psychology. An important factor is whether this pain has flared up suddenly and is acute or if it is long-term chronic pain. You have two choices to consider – treat the pain and mask the symptoms or treat the underlying factors causing the pain.