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A disease with more than one name, TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and is also called TMD, temporomandibular disorders. The disease affects the hinge which connects your skull bones in the temporal area to your jaw.

A disease with more than one name, TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and is also called TMD, temporomandibular disorders. The disease affects the hinge which connects your skull bones in the temporal area to your jaw.  Whichever name is used, it all relates to a seriously painful problem that can be life-altering and debilitating.

The Causes

There is no definitive cause for TMJ dysfunction, but dentists and orofacial specialists do agree on a number of potential culprits. Rather than being a disorder of the joint, it can be attributed to problems with the muscles surrounding that area, so that every time you open or close your mouth, the muscles are aggravated.

A commonly accepted cause is an injury to the jaw. This could be from a fracture due to a direct blow, or an injury such as whiplash. During whiplash, the muscles of the neck and head are wrenched quite violently, which can damage the muscles around the jaw. A fracture is more likely to cause a disorder of the bone or the joint itself.

Another possible cause is grinding of the teeth. Most people grind their teeth to some degree, particularly when they are sleeping. But others who suffer from a lot of stress or anxiety are likely to grind their teeth regularly, throughout the day and the night. The constant movement of the teeth against each other can cause there to be a great deal of pressure on the temporomandibular joint. Tightening of the jaw or facial muscles is also seen in people under stress.

Finally, it is possible to develop arthritis in the joint. Normally there would be arthritis in other parts of the body before the jaw is affected, but it is possible. This is perhaps one of the hardest causes to treat, due to the nature of arthritis and how it affects the bones and joints.

What Sort Of Symptoms Are Likely?

TMJ dysfunction can occur on one or both sides of the face. For some people, it is a temporary problem, and with the right treatment it can resolve. For others however, it can become a long-term disease, which is often difficult to manage. It is more often seen in women than men, and generally occurs between the ages of 20 and 40 years.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the joint area
  • Pain in the face
  • Pain in the shoulders and neck
  • Pain around your ear when you speak, chew or open your mouth widely
  • Difficulty opening your mouth widely
  • Locking of the joint
  • Grating, clicking and popping sounds when the mouth is opened and closed
  • Tiredness of the muscles of the face
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Swelling
  • Headaches
  • Hearing difficulties
  • Dizziness
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