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What Is TMJ?

Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome, known as TMJ for short, is a pain in the jaw joint that can stem from a variety of medical problems. Problems in this area can result in headaches, neck pain, facial pain, ear pain, a locked jaw, biting issues, and jaw clicking when you take a bite. Do you think you have TMJ? Continue reading to learn more about this disorder. 

TMJ Basics

The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible (lower jaw) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear. This joint lets you move your jaw up and down and side to side, which is how you’re able to talk, chew, and yawn. TMJ is also known as Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD for short. 

Symptoms of TMJ

TMJ is known for causing severe pain and discomfort, which can be temporary or last for several years. Women are more prone to experiencing TMJ than men, and it’s most common among people ages 20-40. It might only impact one side of your face, but in severe cases, this disorder can affect both sides of your face. Here are the most common symptoms of TMJ:

  • Pain and tenderness around your face, jaw joint area, neck, shoulders, and inside your ear when you chew or speak.
  • Inability to open your mouth wide
  • Jaws that become locked when your mouth is open.
  • Popping, clicking, or grating noises in the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth, which may or may not be painful.
  • A tired feeling in your face
  • Swelling on the sides of your face.
  • A suddenly uncomfortable bite or trouble chewing, as if your upper and lower teeth no longer fit properly.

Additionally, people who have this disorder experience frequent dizziness, hearing problems, and ringing in the ears, though these symptoms are less common. 

Causes of TMJ

Unfortunately, because the study of TMJ is relatively new, dentists don’t exactly know what causes it; however, they do have suspicions. Some dentists believe the symptoms arise from jaw muscle problems. Injuries to your jaw, the jaw joint, or your head’s muscles can lead to TMJ. People who have recently been involved in a car crash are more susceptible to experiencing TMJ as a result of whiplash. 

Dentists believe other causes include:

  • Grinding or clenching your teeth, which places too much pressure on your jaw joints
  • Arthritis in the jaw joint
  • Rough movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint
  • Chronic stress, which can lead you to tighten your facial and jaw muscles or clench your teeth unknowingly

TMJ Diagnosis

Many other conditions cause similar TMJ symptoms, such as sinus problems, tooth decay, or gum disease. Your dentist will check your jaw joints for pain or tenderness and listen for clicks, pops, or grating sounds when you move them. Additionally, they will test your bite and check for problems with your facial muscles. 

Contact Oral & Facial Surgery of Utah

If you were diagnosed with TMJ and your condition is becoming severe, you’ll need TMJ surgery. For help managing this condition, contact our board-certified surgeons at Oral & Facial Surgery of Utah. Schedule your consultation with us today.


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