Pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most common dental problems people experience. It’s a persistent issue that can cause constant discomfort, including while you’re chewing or sleeping. If you’re suffering from constant discomfort or pain, you’ll need to follow the example of millions of others out there and seek help from a TMJ specialist. 

As a TMJ specialist and trusted Saginaw dentist, Dr. Jennifer Schau works with a variety of patients to help them resolve their TMJ disorders and experience some much-needed relief from the pain and stiffness associated with those conditions. 

What is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint is a sliding hinge-type join in your face that connects the skull and the jawbone. Each side of your jaw has one of these joints, and if they develop problems, you could begin to experience pain in the jaw or difficulty moving it.

TMJ disorder can occur for a variety of reasons. Common causes include genetic factors, injuries or trauma to the jaw, and arthritis. People who experience jaw pain might have a tendency to grind or clench their teeth, but there are many people who are habitual clenchers or grinders who will never experience TMJ. It all depends on the person. 

The good news is that TMJ disorders can be treated without surgery in most cases, providing relief to the temporary pain associated with the condition. Most times, surgery is only used in last-resort circumstances, after all other available treatment options have failed. 

Below are some of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorders. If any of these symptoms feel familiar to you, contact Dr. Schau to set up an appointment to discuss non-surgical TMJ options.

1. Pain or tenderness in your jaw

The most prominent symptom of TMJ disorders is pain or tenderness in the jaw. The jaw pain could come in a wide range of severities. Sometimes it will just be mild tenderness, other times it will be severe. It might also come and go throughout the day—you might notice it more while eating, for example, and not at all at other times of the day. 

Jaw pain alone is not enough to make a TMJ disorder diagnosis, but a TMJ specialist will be able to weigh your pain alongside other symptoms to determine if you may be experiencing such a disorder and the best steps forward for your treatment. 

2. Clicking or grinding in your jaw 

It’s not uncommon for TMJ disorders to create a clicking sound or crackling feeling while you open your mouth or chew. You might also notice a strange grinding sensation in those circumstances. It’s usually accompanied by discomfort. 

While these symptoms can be a nuisance, the problem is only severe enough for treatment if there is also significant pain or accompanying headaches. Many people have clicking in their jaw that’s not detrimental to oral health or joint integrity. Still, it’s best to schedule an evaluation. 

3. Difficulty chewing or speaking

TMJ disorders are also frequently characterized by difficulty chewing or speaking. You might notice your pain spikes when performing these activities. Or, it may be difficult for you to open your mouth wide enough or clench down hard enough to chew. Specific mouth sounds (especially vowels) might be difficult to enunciate due to the discomfort associated with opening your mouth wide enough to articulate.

If you experience these problems, schedule an appointment with a trusted Saginaw dentist as soon as possible, to get the assistance you need to alleviate symptoms.

4. Earaches or ear pain and popping

Have you had a sudden increase in the frequency of earaches, or have you experienced pain in or around your ear? This could be a sign of a TMJ disorder. 

The temporomandibular joint is close to the ears, so problems with the joint can create pain in that area of the head. The popping that might feel like it’s coming from your ears is actually the joint itself. Pay a visit to a TMJ specialist if you experience these conditions to address them head-on.

5. Chronic headaches and facial pain

General pain in the face and chronic headaches are also symptoms commonly associated with TMJ disorders. Given the very general nature of these symptoms, TMJ disorders will only be considered a possibility if these types of headaches and pain occur in conjunction with other symptoms on this list. The frequency and nature of that pain could give some insight into the severity of the disorder.

Want to learn more about the steps you can take to resolve symptoms associated with TMJ disorder? Contact Dr. Schau, a TMJ specialist in Michigan, to discuss your symptoms and to explore non-surgical options for alleviating the discomfort caused by TMJ.

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