Do you ever find yourself grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw? Do you ever experience pain or tenderness of your jaw? If so, you may be suffering from TMJ disorders- short for Temporomandibular joint disorders. TMJ disorders are fairly common amongst teenagers although anyone at any age can develop TMJ disorderss. Roughly, around 1 in 4 people experience symptoms in the jaw joint at some point in their lives. However, only 1 in 20 consult a doctor for this problem.
So, what exactly are TMJ disorders? TMJ disorders are problems which affect your jaw joint such as pain or reduced movement of the jaw. To explain this further- the bones, muscles, cartilages and ligaments of your joints between your jaw and the base of your skull are not working properly. The jaw joint is also known as the ‘temporomandibular joint’. There are many other names for this condition which you may have heard of such as TMJ dysfunction, TMJ arthromyalgia and myofascial pain disorder.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders include pain in your joint area which may feel like earache, pain in the temples or headaches, noises such as clicking or crunching when your jaw is moved and inability to open your mouth fully. Although these symptoms may be unpleasant, it is generally not a serious condition and often improves over time with simple treatments and learning how to manage it to prevent further damage.
It is generally thought that TMJ disorders have a ‘multifactorial’ cause which means there are usually a number of factors that contribute towards the cause. Some causes include trauma to your jaw- directly or elsewhere on the jaw, habits such as chewing gum and biting nails, tension of the jaw muscles due to grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw at night- this may be due to stress and anxiety which may also cause an individual to clench their jaw during the day as well. In fact, the higher amount of stress you are under, the likelier you are to suffer from TMJ disorders. This is because stress raises inflammation and disrupts hormonal balance which plays a role in the development of TMJ disorders. Whatever the cause, if you are experiencing jaw pain it should NOT be ignored.
There are many ways in which you can learn how to manage TMJ disorders such as the following:
- Eating a soft food diet
- Applying ice packs or heat pads to your joint
- Taking simple painkillers such as paracetamol, Ibuprofen or Co-codamol
- Avoid opening your mouth very wide- try not to yawn too widely
So next time you chew gum or bite your nails, you may want to consider the consequences of the long term damage you may be causing. Furthermore, if you are experiencing any of the previous symptoms , please see your GP before they worsen.