Temporomandibular joint disorder, otherwise known as TMJ, has been diagnosed in nearly 10 million adults in the United States alone, but could affect many more. Despite the disorder’s reach, however, it would seem that it is widely misunderstood. Those who suffer the sometimes crippling effects of TMJ could go months, even years, without realizing the cause of their symptoms or how to seek treatments.
Whether you’ve been recently experiencing jaw pain or have already been diagnosed with TMJ and are seeking answers, here are 3 things others with TMJ wish they’d known.
Symptoms Go Beyond Jaw Pain
When most patients think of TMJ, they think of the most common symptoms. While muscle soreness, popping or clicking noises when eating, and jaw pain are certainly the major issues related to TMJ, symptoms can be much more broad. That’s because of the structure of the joint.
The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw bone to the skull, and is comprised of several components and nerve structures that can run as far down as the base of the neck. Because of these connections, the pressure from TMJ can cause a chain reaction, extending effects into the rest of the body, causing tension headaches, and even shoulder and back pain. Many patients who suffer from TMJ might have sought treatment much sooner if they’d known the extent of the disorder.
TMJ Affects Your Quality of Life
Even when symptoms don’t necessarily cause pain, that doesn’t mean they aren’t impacting your quality of life. For example, a less common symptom of TMJ is tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. This can cause frustration, irritability, and even lack of sleep. The same pressure that causes tinnitus can also initiate symptoms like vertigo or dizziness, which can strike randomly throughout the day, possibly causing falls.
Besides symptoms, TMJ can affect your life in ways you may have never considered. The tension that manifests in the jaw can take away your motivation to speak in meetings, can zap your energy, and cause you to miss out on social opportunities. Plus, it can make you skip foods you might otherwise have enjoyed.
Early Treatment Can be More Effective
Even though TMJ is becoming more and more commonly known, treatment can be difficult to figure out. What works for one patient will not necessarily be successful for another. That’s because TMJ is an umbrella term used to describe a multitude of problems that could be affecting the temporomandibular joint.
Another issue is often misdiagnosis. Although many patients sought out treatment for issues such as headaches they may not have thought to be tested for TMJ, setting their treatment back even further.
TMJ is much more than just jaw pain, and can take a long time to manage. Seeking treatment early can help avoid bigger issues such as bite misalignment and progressive damage to the nerves and bones. There are many drug-free treatments out there, and speaking with a TMJ dentist can help to find a treatment that works best for you.
If you live in or around Wichita Falls and you suspect that TMJ might be responsible for your headaches, please call 940-322-2252 or contact us today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry.