Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) often requires the attention of an oral surgeon, but it can be difficult to diagnose since it really refers to a group of conditions linked by common symptoms. However, there are five central factors which are known to put people at risk. If you are experiencing any of the causes listed below, it's well worth contacting a dentist or oral surgeon.
Blunt force to the jaw, as well as whiplash injuries, can cause a temporary dislocation of its joints. This often leads to an imbalance in your facial muscles which can develop into a temporomandibular joint disorder if left untreated. Caught early, these injuries can be treated with something as simple as an electronic muscle massage, though more extensive treatment may be needed if the dislocation of the jaw was serious.
2. A Poor Bite
Your teeth are designed to fit together in a certain way, but having a poor bite means that your jaw and facial muscles are put under unnatural stress. The most common cause is an overbite, though other conditions can cause the same problem. An orthodontist should be able to stop a poor bite from creating a temporomandibular joint disorder if treatment is sought. Left untreated, a patient may require reconstructive dentistry.
3. Clenching and Grinding
Excessive grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw – known medically as bruxism – is hard on your jaw muscles and joints. This can create severe pain, and can even lead to the dislocation of the jaw itself. Bruxism commonly occurs while you sleep, so it can be hard to diagnose, but discomfort in the jaw after waking and sensitive teeth are both warning signs.
4. Too Much Chewing
Humans used to be able to chew all day without suffering adverse effects, but they lost this ability centuries ago. If you spend all day chewing gum or eating food that requires a lot of chewing, you'll be at risk of straining your jaw joint. This may result in the dislocation of the jaw's cushioning discs, or even in the degeneration of the joint itself. This can be treated in the home with relative ease if you catch it early, but will require surgical treatment at later stages.
Having arthritis can affect your jaw joint. Osteoarthritis creates cumulative wear on the cushioning discs and bones; rheumatoid arthritis can see the immune system attacking the jaw joint. Either condition can lead to inflammation and pain, often accompanied by headaches. Treatment will fall under the type of treatment you need for the overall condition.