Every time we eat, drink, yawn, or speak we depend on a special joint in our jaws to complete the action for us. The joint can operate without problems for a long time and we don’t even think about it — until something happens and the joint ceases to work properly. That’s when our brain gets pains that signal that something isn’t right. What can you do?
The Temporomandibular Joint
Referred to as the TMJ for short, these joints are located on both sides of your head at the point where your lower jaw connects to your skull. A ball and socket, separated by a small disc, make up the simple joint. If the jaw muscles or the joint itself becomes impaired, the resulting malfunction can cause pain and misery. These impairments are called temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). Although some people can suffer for years with the disorder, it can also develop suddenly. In both cases, the resultant pain and discomfort lead many to seek relief.
How to Know Your Symptoms Might Be Caused by TMD
Be aware of the following symptoms:
- Recurring headaches
- Uncomfortable or painful chewing
- Pain around your ears
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Pain in the neck, face, or shoulders
- Jaw pain
- “Locked” jaws with wide yawns
- Clicking sounds in the jaw joint
- Swelling in your face
Some Causes of TMD
Wear and tear through use can erode the joint, causing pain. Sometimes the disc between the ball and socket in the TMJ can misalign, or the joint can suffer from arthritis. Impact injuries can damage the joint, as can stress that leads to repeated tensing of the jaw muscles.
The cause of TMD is often the result of more than one factor. Genetics and injuries and even bad habits like tooth grinding can be factors, making it difficult to identify one cause.
Who Might Be at Risk of Developing TMD?
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia you might be more prone to develop TMD. Some connective tissue diseases might be contributors, and bad habits like persistent gum and ice chewing over long periods of time can be factors.
Let Us Help
While there is no cure for TMD, there are treatments that can alleviate pain and return your jaw function to normal. Effective treatment depends upon a proper diagnosis, and treatments will vary for every individual.
We have extensive experience diagnosing and treating TMD, and we know that we can help relieve your pain and discomfort. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms described here, please contact our office today for a consultation and get on the road to recovery. We are conveniently located in The Loop in Downtown Chicago, so contact us today.