TMJ, also known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, is something that many people have heard of but don’t really know much about. That’s because it’s a hard condition to diagnose, as it imitates so many other things and can manifest itself through a number of symptoms, none of which are consistent from patient to patient.When one has TMJ, which affects the jaw, often it means they have either pain or problems with things such as eating, talking, swallowing and making facial expressions. One might experience grinding or popping of the jaw, and could also have problems in other areas near the jaw such as earaches, migraines or consistent headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and problems seeing and hearing.
Why is TMJ so hard to diagnose? Because it resembles so many other disorders and problems that are relatively common, such as: toothaches; lyme disease; sinusitis; otitis; arthritis; muscle disorders; and dental disease.
One of the other problems in diagnosis of TMJ is that some of the things mentioned above can actually cause TMJ, particularly if they make someone change how they move their mouth. A person could also suffer physical trauma that could indirectly cause TMJ, such as falling, being hit in the head or even whiplash.
Because it can be difficult to diagnose or determine, there are many types of physicians a person might go to in trying to figure out what’s wrong with them. Because there are few specific tests upon which primary care physicians or dentist can rely for diagnosis, it’s recommended that one see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to definitively determine if a person’s issue is TMJ, or something else entirely.
Luckily, except in extreme circumstances, TMJ is something that might not last long. For most people, it’s a symptom that only lasts a few months at worst, and their pain and distress can be alleviated by some simple changes. Common changes include eating soft foods, no longer chewing gum and avoiding chewy foods that stick to the teeth such as caramel, which can encourage moving the mouth in ways that can cause pain. Don’t have any dental work done while experiencing TMJ pain, since this work generally involves having the mouth held open for long periods of time. Ice packs can help numb pain some, as can over-the-counter pain relief.