TMJ Causes and Dysfunction

TMJ Causes

One of the most common reasons why people regularly have to visit their dentist and undergo dental treatment is as a result of a TMJ disorder. 

Your TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) is located in the jaw and is one of the most complex joints located in the human body. The TMJ’s primary role is to connect your mandible (lower jaw) to the skull and allow the mandible to move up and down, back and forth, and side to side. Think of the TMJ as a hinge connecting your lower jar to your skull and allowing it to open and close. 

Because your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is used so much on a daily basis, along with many other factors like clenching or grinding of the teeth, misalignment of the jaw, arthritis, and trauma to the jaw, face, or surrounding area, temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are very common and can result in various painful symptoms. TMD causes headaches, jaw pain, cracked teeth, dental issues, facial pain, trouble eating, and much more. Understanding the causes and triggers of TMD is important in finding the best healthcare and treatment options. There are various non-surgical and surgical treatments available, including physical therapy, custom-made orthodontic devices, Botox injections, manual therapy, ultrasound, and heat therapy, to name a few. Taking care of your jaw muscles and overall health can also be helpful in preventing and managing TMD.

But what is the main causes tmj and how can TMJ disorder be treated? Read on to find out more. 


Anatomical TMJ causes

When it comes to temporomandibular joint dysfunction self-care, before you can begin your TMJ exercises or start looking into how to cure TMJ permanently, first we must look at some primary anatomical causes of TMJ. 


    • Misalignment of the jaw 

This is a very common TMJ cause and can be very painful. 

A misaligned jaw refers to the condition where the jaw is not positioned properly in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This can lead to various symptoms and problems such as bruxism, difficulty opening the mouth, jaw pain, headaches, and other similar issues. In some cases, the misalignment of the jaw can also cause long-term problems with the TMJ, leading to arthritis, TMD, and other chronic conditions. Therefore, it's important to seek medical attention if you're experiencing symptoms of a misaligned jaw, in order to determine the best course of action and find relief from discomfort and pain.


    • Arthritis 

Another very common TMJ cause, especially in older people, is arthritis in the TMJ. 

Arthritis is a term used to describe a group of conditions that affect the joints and bones in the body, leading to inflammation and pain. The most common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout. Symptoms may include joint pain, swelling, and limited movement. Treatment for arthritis depends on the type and severity of the condition, but may include medication, physical therapy, weight management, and lifestyle changes. In some cases, joint surgery may be required to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.


    • Trauma to the jaw or surrounding structure 

Finally, if you have suffered trauma to the jaw, face, or surrounding area, this could damage the TMJ and again cause pain and discomfort. The treatment of this type of injury should be prompt and thorough to minimize the risk of long-term muscles damage, teeth grinding, and other health problems. The symptoms of TMJ can be quite severe, including jaw pain, headaches, and difficulty eating or speaking. A prompt and effective treatment plan should be developed to minimize pain, improve the health of the TMJ, and prevent the development of chronic symptoms.

Those affected with TMJ trauma causing TMJ disorder may be prescribed TMJ pain relief medication, or even have to undergo surgery. 


Habitual causes of TMJ

When you hear people talking about TMD vs TMJ, they’re basically referring to TMJ disorder (TMD) vs the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMD is a group of problems that affects the temporomandibular joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. These health conditions can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty in biting and chewing. To treat TMD, a doctor or healthcare professional may recommend a combination of treatments, such as physical therapy, medication, or muscle relaxants, to relieve the symptoms and prevent further damage. In some cases, a specialist in temporomandibular disorders may also be consulted for a more comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan.

TMD can also commonly be caused by all manner of habitual functions and processes, including the following: 


    • Bruxism 

Arguably the most common TMJ cause of all is bruxism. 

Bruxism is a common dental disorder that can lead to various issues, including temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ). It occurs when a person grinds or clenches their teeth excessively, putting a lot of pressure on the jaw muscles and causing damage to the teeth, gums, oral health, and jaw joints. People who experience TMJ nerve damage symptoms may have developed the condition as a result of bruxism. Treating bruxism usually requires a combination of dental and healthcare treatments, such as visits to a dental clinic or doctor for therapy, medication, or muscle relaxants to relieve the symptoms and prevent further damage. In severe cases, patients may be referred to a specialist in temporomandibular disorders for further evaluation and treatment.


    • Poor posture 

Believe it or not, but poor posture is also another cause of TMJ, albeit not quite as common as the other causes on our list today. 

If you find yourself slouching, this can lead to trapped nerves and TMJ nerve damage, so try to sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, hold your head high, and keep your back straight. 


    • Stress and tension in the jaw muscles 

Like bruxism, stress and tension in the jaw is another TMJ cause that is unfortunately very common. 

When people are stressed and/or tense, they’ll often clench their teeth and jaw for hours on end, without even noticing. Over time, this can put stress on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and cause it to become damaged, resulting in temporomandibular disorder (TMD). This condition can lead to a variety of symptoms including jaw pain, headaches, limited jaw mobility, difficulty eating, and more. The good news is that TMD can be treated with a combination of healthcare and dental treatments, including physical therapy, manual therapy, stress management techniques, and medication. In some cases, it may be necessary to seek the help of a specialist in TMD who can diagnose and manage the health of your jaw joint, muscles, and related health conditions.


Treatment options

As painful as TMJ can be, the good news is that there are a whole host of treatments options available, including those we’re about to list: 


    • Self-care exercises 

When it comes to treating temporomandibular joint disorders through exercises, self-care and physical therapy can play a significant role in reducing symptoms such as jaw pain. Simple jaw exercises and relaxation techniques can help alleviate tension in the jaw muscles and improve the overall health of the temporomandibular joint. It's also worth seeking the advice of a healthcare professional to design a personalized treatment plan that takes into account the specific needs and concerns of the individual.

These exercises act as preventative exercises primarily, helping to prevent TMJ before it begins, though they can also help to ease TMJ infection symptoms and tmj symptoms in general. 

Bruxism for example, is often causes by stress so if you can relax and manage your stress, you won’t grind your teeth or clench your jaw, meaning the TMJ benefits. 


    • Oral dental splints 

In more extreme cases of TMJ/TMD, your dentist may prescribe you with oral dental splints. 

Oral dental splints are a popular treatment option for those suffering from bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). They are worn in the mouth like a removable dental appliance and cover and protect the teeth, helping to prevent excessive grinding and clenching of the jaw. These splints can also help to alleviate the symptoms of TMD such as jaw pain, headaches, and facial pain, as well as promoting better oral health by taking the stress off the jaw muscles and joints. By wearing an oral dental splint, patients can help to prevent further damage to their teeth, jaw, and overall health.


    • Botox to the TMJ 

Finally, another treatment option which may be prescribed by your dentist is Botox

Botox injected into the tissue surrounding the TMJ will help the joint to relax and take down any swelling or inflammation. The solution essentially freezes the muscle tissue which helps ease the symptoms of TMJ while serving as TMJ pain relief medication as well. 


Final thoughts

As you can see, there is not just one TMJ cause to be aware of, but several. 

TMJ pain and dysfunction can be caused by a whole host of different factors and variables, including those which we have looked at above. 

If you’re suffering with TMJ pain, or are concerned about TMJ/TMD, it’s essential to seek proper dental treatment. Speaking to your dentist means that they can provide an accurate diagnosis and then prescribe the necessary medication and/or treatment. 

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