Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a condition which affects the cartilage around the temporomandibular joint, the joint between the mandible and the skull. A number of symptoms are associated with TMJ, and these symptoms can vary, depending on the patient and the severity of the problem. Someone who experiences several of these symptoms should probably seek medical attention to determine whether or not the cause is TMJ.
This joint is extremely important, because it links the skull with the mandible, a moving part which allows people to eat, drink, and talk. TMJ appears to be brought on in a number of ways, with stress being a leading cause, because stress causes people to hold tension in their jaws and faces. One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is jaw popping or clicking, which may be audible to others in addition to the patient.
TMJ can cause pain all over the face, not just around the jaw. Working from the top down, TMJ symptoms can include headaches, forehead pain, and an extremely sensitive scalp. The condition can also cause eye pain, blurred vision, watering eyes, sensitivity to light, and a sense of pressure behind the eyes. TMJ may also cause cheek pain, pain around the eyes, and pain around the neck. Some people with TMJ experience symptoms in their ears such as buzzing, ringing, popping, and soreness as well.
One of the hallmarks of TMJ is difficulty opening and closing the jaw. Some patients experience locking episodes, in which they are unable to move their jaws without the assistance of manual manipulation. The condition can also cause a dull, aching pain throughout the jaw, along with clenching and grinding of the teeth, especially at night or during periods of stress.
There are a number of approaches to treatment for TMJ. Many doctors focus on reducing stress to get at the root cause of the condition, in the hopes that the TMJ will resolve itself. Doctors may also prescribe massage, anti-inflammatory drugs, and similar treatments to help resolve the pain, along with bite guards to prevent grinding of the teeth at night. In extreme cases, surgical correction may be required to treat the inflammation of the joint, especially in the case of patients who allow their TMJ to go untreated for an extended period of time.