Don’t let your TMD symptoms stop you.
Did you know the human jaw has a powerful bite force of about 1,100 to 1,300 Newtons? That’s much stronger than what the orangutan or the gibbon can manage! So, it’s thanks to our jaw that we can chew through tough meats and grind down nuts.
As amazing as the human jaw is, however, it isn’t impervious to diseases or injuries. Factors like arthritis and jaw trauma can all result in the development of TMD symptoms. Researchers estimate that in the U.S. alone, over 10 million people have TMJ disorders. The good news is most disorders of the jaw are treatable without the need for surgery. If caught early, a dentist can help treat TMJ problems to keep them from worsening or happening again.
With that said, please get in touch with your dentist as soon as you experience any of the TMD symptoms we’ve listed below.
TMD can result in jaw getting stuck or feeling out of place.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) serves as a hinge that connects the jawbone to the skull. The joint is present on both sides of the head, sitting right in front of the ears. You can feel it by placing your fingers near the tragus (the small pointed flap of your outer ear).
While you have your fingers there, try to close and open your mouth. You should feel something moving; that’s the temporomandibular joint. It should move smoothly and shouldn’t get stuck or feel like it’s moving too much to one side. If it is, then something may be wrong with the joint or the structure of your jaw. It’s best to get in touch with your dentist as soon as you notice this symptom. Please do so even if only one side of the joint gets stuck or feels like it’s out of place.
TMD can cause clicking or popping sounds from the jaw.
Sometimes, the jaw can make popping sounds when you yawn or open your mouth wide to chomp down on something. These noises result from the jaw becoming overextended. It’s usually not a cause of concern, so long as it doesn’t happen every single time.
If the clicking or popping happens frequently, take that as a cue to call your dentist. This is even more important if the sounds occur when you’re only eating or talking normally. Your dentist can use 3D imaging technology to see what’s going on with your TMJ. From here, the good doctor can develop a treatment plan to make your jaw stop popping.
Tightness or tenderness in the jaw area is a warning sign.
Tight or tender jaw muscles can lead to pain that spreads throughout other parts of the body. You may feel some discomfort in your mouth too, as well as your ears or even your neck. The unpleasant sensations can also get worse while you speak, chew, or yawn. Sometimes tightness on one side of the jaw can occur if you sleep on your side with your hand under the jaw. Staying in this same position for hours can put excessive pressure on the facial muscles.
If you feel pain on both sides of the jaw, however, that may already indicate a TMJ disorder. Let your oral healthcare provider know as soon as you can about your dilemma. A digital dental X-ray will help your dentist discover any issues with your jawbone or jaw joints.
Migraine-like headaches are often triggered by TMD.
Migraine attacks often feel like throbbing or pulsing pain on a specific area of the head. Many people who get these also experience vomiting and nausea. The attacks can last for many hours, sometimes even for consecutive days.
Worse, migraines are so common that 25% of all U.S. households have a member who suffers from them. Many things can cause and trigger migraines, including TMJ disorders. In people with temporomandibular joint dysfunction, the jaw muscles tend to tense up. This tension can then place severe pressure on the muscles, which, in turn, can cause pain. The pain can then move to the other muscles near and above the cheeks, including the top of the head.
TMJ headaches are often recurring, which is why they resemble migraines. If you also experience jaw popping, however, it’s more likely that you have a TMJ disorder. Migraines (or migraine-like headaches) can be debilitating. As such, if you experience these, it’s a good time to visit the dentist.
TMD can cause limited or impaired mobility of the jaw.
The pain that results from TMJ disorders can be so severe that it impedes the jaw’s movements. Even just opening the mouth can cause agony. As such, some researchers believe TMJ disorders can create risks of malnutrition. The pain, after all, can be too much to bear to eat a proper meal. To reduce such risks, ask your dentist for advice if your jaw pain is making you forego your meals.
TMJ disorder can lead to actual locking of the jaw.
This is different from tetanus, an infection that affects about 30 people in the U.S. each year. However, TMJ disorders can also cause the jaw to “click” and then “lock” in place. If this happens, you may be unable to open or move your mouth at all.
Most cases of lockjaw are painful and can cause severe complications like choking. Also, a delay in TMJ disorder treatment may involve surgical procedures. Early TMJ diagnosis and treatment, however, can prevent lockjaw.
Get prompt help for your TMD symptoms.
As you can see, TMD symptoms can be very painful to the point of being debilitating. The good news is it’s also highly treatable with non-medicated and non-surgical procedures. Early diagnosis and treatment will give you the highest chances of recovery, though.
If you’re feeling any of the symptoms above, our dental team can help determine if it’s a TMJ disorder. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us so we can help make your jaw healthy and mobile again.