Temporomandibular joint disorder is the official name for the pain or discomfort in your jaw joint. Most people refer to this as TMJ, which is the acronym for the name of the jaw joint. This joint uses a hinging motion to open and close your jaw. If there is some dysfunction or abnormality in the joints, tissues, cartilage, or muscles, it can affect the jaw’s movement.
With mild cases, TMJ may feel like a popping or clicking sound in your jaw when you open your mouth. This is not likely to cause any pain, but the condition could worsen with time. Over time, the joints can become worn, which may cause pain or function difficulties. With pain, it is likely that you will hold your jaw differently or clench your teeth. This can increase the discomfort or cause more damage.
Advanced cases of TMJ can cause severe pain and even chronic headaches. In rare cases, TMJ will lock or “freeze” the joint, making it difficult or impossible to open and close your mouth easily. This can have significant effects on your health and well-being.
Chronic Pain and Inflammation
When it is working properly, the jaw joint should hinge and slide without tightness or clicking. There should be a smooth movement to open and close your mouth. However, TMJ disrupts the proper functioning of the jaw. Even with mild cases, there is some type of dysfunction or inflammation in the joint or muscles that needs treatment.
Over time, the repetitive movement of your jaw can further damage your jaw. The more you use your jaw, the more you may increase the dysfunction. This is why you should seek treatment.
When you have pain in your jaw, the pain can radiate to other places in your face and head. It is common for people with TMJ to suffer from chronic headaches. This is because TMJ can make the jaw muscles tight. These muscles can create a ripple effect of tightness and tension across your face and into your neck. Some patients complain of earaches and face pain sparked by TMJ.
Until you seek and continue treatment, this pain will remain constant. It is possible that it will worsen as well.
You may not realize it, but the way your jaw moves and how your teeth function are closely related. If there is an issue with one, there is likely to be an issue with the other. For example, some dental problems, such as crooked teeth or open bites, can affect the way your jaw moves. In fact, malocclusions (also known as bite problems) can actually cause TMJ. The same is true for jaw problems causing bite problems or other dental issues.
For example, patients with TMJ are more likely to experience enamel erosion or prematurely worn teeth. This is because TMJ can affect the way your jaw moves, causing you to bite incorrectly. It is possible to bite more on one side compared to the other or one area more than another. This can cause the enamel and shape of your teeth to wear down.