TMJ stands for "temporomandibular joint." Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are dysfunctions of this joint. TMJ/TMD can affect both the joint itself and the muscles that move it. If a patient is experiencing any of the following symptoms, making an appointment with a dentist is the next step.
1. Jaw Joint Lock
If the jaw locks so that it's hard to open or close the mouth, there's a good chance the culprit is TMJ-related.
2. Jaw Pain
After locked jaw, one of the earliest symptoms of TMJ is pain or tenderness of the jaw. This may be triggered by grinding teeth at night.
3. Ear Pain
The muscles that move the jaw connect around the ear, so pain may be expressed here as well.
4. Pain When Chewing
TMJ can cause a clicking sound or grating sensation when chewing food, which can be unpleasant and uncomfortable.
5. Facial Pain
Facial pain may be experienced as a dull, aching pain in face and neck muscles.
If one or more of these symptoms are present, it's time to consult a dentist. If the dentist confirms the patient has TMJ/TMD, treatment options include pain medications or muscle relaxants, as well as non-pharmaceutical therapies like bite guards. In severe cases, steroid injections and even surgery may be necessary.