It is estimated that 10 million Americans live with the painful symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, and many have no idea. More than 15 percent of the population are suffering daily. Women are four times more likely than men to have the disorder and it often runs in families. Those afflicted may not experience any negative effects of this degenerative condition for quite some time. Eventually, TMJ will become increasingly painful and possibly debilitating, as the disorder worsens.
Dr. Weston Spencer advises patients to seek medical attention before the condition causes a problem. But, it is common for sufferers to consult their dentist once the condition puts a damper on their lives.
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint is a sliding hinge joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. This is the only joint that moves up and down; forward and back; and side to side. TMJ, also referred to as TMD, occurs when there is a misalignment of the jaw, neck and supporting structures, causing the muscles and nerves to become injured. Pain is associated with repetitive movements like speaking or chewing, which can also produce a popping or clicking sound at the jaw. Recurring symptoms include nerve inflammation, headaches and teeth grinding which can dislocate the joint and cause ear discomfort or neck and upper back pain.
Although TMJ is a relatively common disorder, the causes are still not completely understood. Research has shown that multiple factors contribute to the symptoms that characterize this condition. However, it is not clear whether some of these causes lead to TMJ syndrome or if they are a result of it. Some causes include misalignment or trauma to the teeth or jaw, excessive chewing or teeth grinding, poor posture or stress, and arthritis. Women between 18 and 44, and other patients in La Jolla who suffer from chronic inflammatory musculoskeletal disorders, like arthritis, are at higher risk for the condition.
Popping and clicking of the jaw after repetitive motion is a common experience for patients suffering with TMD. A similar condition can be experienced in the ears in the form of tinnitus (ringing), popping noises or a feeling of fullness inside of the ear. Tight or sore neck, ears, and shoulders can result due to the tightening of the neck and jaw. This tightening can also cause the jaw to dislocate or lock, particularly after yawning. Patients may also endure facial pain and numbness.
Don’t suffer through the pain any longer. Dr. Weston Spencer is happy to treat La Jolla and surrounding San Diego patients with temporomandibular joint syndrome. At your consultation, La Jolla dentist Dr. Weston Spencer will perform a thorough examination of the mouth, jaw, and surrounding areas, to assess symptoms. The patient may be referred to an otolaryngologist or a dentist specializing in jaw disorders. An MRI may be used to assess damage to the cartilage and to rule out other concerns. If diagnosed with TMJ, Dr. Spencer will prescribe appropriate pain-relieving treatment options.