Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain in general occurs due to the unbalanced activity of the jaw muscles, spasms and/or over use. Symptoms can become chronic and very painful. TMD disorders fall into three main categories: myofascial pain, internal derangement of the joint, and degenerative joint disease, i.e. osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint. Although many symptoms may not appear to be related to the TMJ itself, it’s quite common that patients experience one or more of the following symptoms related to TMJ disorders:
Bruxism is the term used for clenching or grinding your teeth. The term clenching simply means that you clamp your top and bottom teeth together tightly. The stress caused by clenching causes pressure to the muscles, tissues, and other structures around the jaw. This can lead to jaw joint disorders, jaw pain, and other problems, which are often collectively referred to as TMJ or temperomandibular joint problems.
Many patients suffering from a TMJ disorder complain of headaches and facial pain although not necessarily at the same time. Pain is often worsened while the jaw is opening and closing. Typically, exposure to cold weather or air conditioning type air would increase muscle contractions and facial pain.
Sufferers of a TMJ disorder often have ear ache or pain in the ear, but without the usual signs of having any ear infection. It’s not uncommon that patients are treated several times for an ear infection that isn’t there.
Other patients with a TMJ disorder can experience dizziness or imbalance. While this symptom is under investigation it is at this time not known why dizziness is related to TMJ.
Some patients with a TMJ disorder may experience muffled or clogged ears and can experience a fullness of the ear and pain during air-flight take off and landing. These symptoms are usually caused by a dysfunction in the structure responsible for regulating pressure in the middle ear.
For some unknown reason other patients with a TMJ disorder experience noise or ringing in the ear.
As temporomandibular joint disorder is not just one disorder, but a group of often very painful conditions, that affect the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint, or TMJ) and the muscles that control chewing – it’s advised to seek treatment.