TMJ Disorder

If you are experiencing constant pain in your jaw and are not sure of the cause you may have a temporomandibular joint disorder.

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This joint is found in your jaw region, as it is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. Each person has two temporomandibular joints, one on the right side of the jaw and one on the left side of the jaw. Temporomandibular joint disorders are difficulties that result from the joints and chewing muscles around the lower jaw.

This disorder can include acute and chronic pain in the muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint. Since this joint is responsible for most of the motions of the lower jaw, such as opening and closing while chewing and moving side to side, the pain that one feels may vary from person to person and the intensity of the pain may differ as well.

How Do You Know If You Suffer From Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
There are common symptoms associated with TMJ disorder, however, the pain and symptoms in each person are not always identical. Some common symptoms include difficulty chewing, discomfort while eating, hearing a clicking or a pop in your jaw, an earache, and a headache. While some people may hear popping in their jaw it is not always associated with pain and therefore may not be a result of this disorder, however, it is always suggested that you talk to a professional before self-diagnosing.

Other symptoms include a sore jaw, loss of hearing, jaw tenderness, neck, and shoulder pain, decreased flexibility using their jaw, Tinnitus (also known as ringing in the ears), and dizziness. Since there is usually muscles that get over-stretched when people have this disorder, the result is usually a pain in other areas of the body. People who suffer from this disorder may not experience all of these signs, however, if you feel some of these symptoms you should get a checkup.

The exact causes of temporomandibular joints disorders are not known for sure but are thought by some to be caused by trauma, such as grinding teeth and clenching the jaw, disease, wear and tear of joints and muscles over time, or other oral habits. Osteoarthritis is thought to cause this disorder in some people because normal aging can affect the stability and effectiveness of all joints and bones in the body, including those located in the jaw. Rheumatoid arthritis is also thought to cause this disorder in some people because similar to other areas of the body, rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in the temporomandibular joint that can ultimately lead to deterioration of the bone and cartilage. While these things are thought to cause a role in causing this disorder, they are not the same for every person and can vary greatly, which is why it is always important to talk to a health care provider about any concerns you may have.

Treating TMJ Disorders
Since people with temporomandibular joint disorders have varying signs and symptoms and the exact cause of this disorder is not clear treating these disorders can be difficult. There is no standard way to treat these disorders but to relieve pain and help your joints, muscles, nerves, and teeth work together more efficiently imaging studies may need to be given. Health care providers will typically write down your exact symptoms, record previous dental and medical history, and inspect areas that are causing pain. A dental professional will likely give you a dental exam to see the exact alignment of your teeth, feel the joint to see how it opens and closes, feel the joint to check for tenderness, check the head for sensitive areas, listen to the jaw move from side to side and open and close, and may also use x-rays to check all teeth and bones for irregularities. During this exam, it may be possible to discover the source of pain.

Some people who have these symptoms may suffer from this disorder, but others may be suffering from other complications, such as an infection, a nerve headache, or other dental issues. Since standard procedures are not available it is common for those suffering from this disorder to see multiple specialists to come up with the best solution for care. If it is determined that you suffer from this disorder you can seek surgical or non-surgical treatment options, depending upon your symptoms and exam results. Both treatment options can help reduce the pain and discomfort one may feel when experiencing the painful signs of a temporomandibular joint disorder.

While waiting for your appointment with a healthcare professional some recommend using a pain reliever, eating soft foods, reducing your stress levels, using warm compresses on your jaw and other areas that are in pain, avoiding hard to chew foods, and using relaxation techniques.

Need More Info?
Dr. Marissa Cruz has many years of experience in specialized areas of dental work including periodontal therapy, regeneration and plastic surgery. She also has experience in dental implant therapy, pre-prosthetic surgery, and bone regeneration. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Central Florida then earned her Masters Degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Miami.

She completed rigorous training and schooling at the University of Nova Southeastern University where she earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine. She then furthered her career and specialization when she completed training at Temple University in the Periodontology and Oral Implantology program.

She has received a lot of recognition has a specialist periodontist and is a member of the American Dental Association, Delaware Valley Academy of Osseointegration, American Academy of Periodontology, The Academy of Stomatology of Philadelphia, and a Diplomat in the International Congress of Oral Implantologists. As a member of these associations, Dr. Marissa Cruz is always kept up to date about the latest research and best practices in the world of dental care. She performs various types of periodontal care. Please visit Dr. Crandall-Cruz for TMJ treatments in King of Prussia.