Dangers of Untreated TMJ
Many Americans suffer from the temporomandibular joint disorder but oftentimes do not seek treatment. Since TMJ disorder is easily aggravated by many normal daily tasks, it can be difficult to avoid. Anyone who suffers from TMJ syndrome should seek treatment with Dr. David Frey in Beverly Hills, CA, as this can lead to other serious medical conditions.
What Is temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)?
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint located in the jaw. TMJ causes discomfort and pain that can either be intermittent or chronic. Symptoms are often overlooked as signs of stress, causing the disorder to go untreated. Failure to get TMJ treated may have serious lifelong consequences.
How serious is TMD?
The temporomandibular joint disorder is misunderstood or underappreciated by many dentists. This can lead to misdiagnoses of conditions such as migraine headaches or neck and upper back pain. While TMJ is not a condition that is life-threatening or permanently disfiguring, it can have a very serious impact on your quality of life. Chronic jaw pain, headaches, ringing in your ears, and difficulty chewing and biting aren’t issues to shrug off; they merit the full attention of a temporomandibular joint expert such as Dr. Frey. Why settle for chronic pain and a diminished quality of life?
What causes TMJ?
You don’t simply wake up one day and have the temporomandibular joint disorder. It can actually start during childhood, and this is evidenced by mouth breathing. This points to a misaligned jaw. Those would be congenital causes.
Causes can be related to problems with the bite, but also from subtler issues such as stress and nightly teeth clenching during sleep. Traumatic injury to the jaw joints or related muscles can also lead to TMJ. Some causes of TMJ are still unknown, although research points to a possible genetic predisposition. Here are some causes of TMJ:
- A misaligned bite between the upper and lower jaws
- Grinding or clenching the teeth
- Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint
- Arthritis in the joint
- Stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
- Injury to the jaw, head, or neck impacting the TMJ
- Missing or thoroughly worn teeth creating uneven biting surfaces
What are the dangers of not treating TMJ?
- Other medical conditions: TMJ can lead to other medical conditions. Most sufferers of TMJ will attempt to alleviate their pain through self-medication. Over time, this can lead to addiction. Many TMJ sufferers fall prey to alcoholism and drug abuse if left untreated by a doctor. Constant pain from TMJ, combined with grinding teeth can lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia as well. TMJ symptoms may also contribute to depression, which can negatively impact job performance, relationships, and quality of life. Not treating your TMJ could also lead to malnutrition and possibly eating disorders. This is because some patients try avoiding the problem by only consuming soft foods, liquids, or not eating at all. No one should have to suffer from these other medical conditions since TMJ can be treated permanently through safe, nonsurgical treatment.
- Dental health: Putting off TMJ treatment can lead to additional dental health issues. The grinding and clenching of teeth can lead to fractured teeth and worn down enamel. Sufferers of TMJ tend to favor one side of the jaw over the other which can cause swelling on one side of the face and unsymmetrical muscle growth. This can give the patient a lopsided appearance.
- Tinnitus and jaw problems: Since the joint is located directly beneath the ears, TMJ disorder may lead to tinnitus or even permanently compromised hearing. Inner ear problems can also cause difficulties with balance and cause vertigo, or recurring dizziness. Vision may also be compromised. TMJ can also lead to serious jaw problems, such as a locked jaw. The jaw may become permanently stuck open, requiring a trip to the hospital. The breakdown of the cartilage in the jaw can also result in the dislocation of the jaw.
What are the symptoms of TMJ?
TMJ can lead to chronic pain. It’s most common in younger people, between the ages of 20 and 40, occurring more in women than men. These are the typical symptoms associated with TMJ:
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck, and shoulders, or in and around the ears when you chew or otherwise open your mouth
- Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” either open or closed
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you chew or simply open or close your mouth
- Consistent headaches
- Regular jaw stiffness
- Ear ringing (tinnitus)
- Unintentional teeth grinding
- A tired feeling in your face
- Upper shoulder pain
What is the difference between TMJ and TMD?
Sometimes TMJ is used to solely describe the temporomandibular joint. Sometimes TMD is used to describe problems with the joint. The more common acronym for the temporomandibular joint disorder, and the term Dr. Frey uses, is TMJ.
What’s wrong with my jaw and bite?
The three components of your bite — the teeth, the masseter muscles, and the temporomandibular joint — all must work together for the correct function. When the three are working together, you don’t have any facial or jaw pain and chewing is silent. But when one of the three components creates alignment problems, this leads to problems with the bite that will create pain in the jaw and face that can also radiate down into the neck and shoulders.
The pain is due to the continued stress of the misaligned jaw trying to find alignment. Considering we use our jaws and the temporomandibular joint almost continually for eating, talking, breathing during exertion, and even yawning, the constant pressure caused by misalignment creates overused muscles and tension. This leads to pain originating in the joint and spreading outward.
What can cause TMJ to flare-up or worsen?
A period of new stress, maybe in a job or relationship, can cause a person to clench his or her teeth at night. This can cause an instant TMJ flare-up. Another reason can be poor posture in the neck and upper back, which creates neck strain and problems with jaw muscle function. This could be the case when a person is having to do an increased amount of computer work, and they aren’t paying attention to their posture.
These generally aren’t acute pain conditions, however. TMJ doesn’t develop overnight; it is more in line with chronic pain conditions.
How to Treat TMJ Disorder
There are many different options when it comes to treating TMJ disorder. Some of the treatments are:
- Stress-reducing exercises
- Taking regular muscle relaxants
- Mouthguards to prevent teeth grinding
- Avoiding extreme jaw movements
- Forms of laser therapy
Can TMJ treatment stop my migraine headaches? How about the ringing in my ears?
When Dr. Frey gets a handle on a patient’s TMJ, it can be an amazing change. Migraine headaches and tinnitus (ear ringing) are both classic symptoms of TMJ, and they can be very debilitating in different ways. Once the patient’s jaw is in alignment, a great deal of the stress on the temporomandibular joint is removed. This is often the cause of a person’s migraines and tinnitus, and both conditions can resolve.
Can TMJ go away on its own?
Whether or not TMJ can resolve on its own varies dramatically between people. For some, they may be in the midst of an incredibly stressful time in their life. When these stressors resolve, the patient may stop grinding his or her teeth and the TMJ may go away. But if the jaw is out of alignment, the condition needs treatment. Correction may be as simple as creating a custom nightguard to wear while sleeping to stop teeth grinding and clenching, or treatment may be much more involved. Every case is unique. In extreme cases, surgery could be necessary.
Are there exercises I can do to help prevent TMJ?
A misaligned bite can lead to TMJ and there’s little you can do about it other than having Dr. Frey bring things into alignment. But for other causes, or to prevent a relapse, we give patients these exercises to do at home:
- Relaxed jaw exercise — Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Consciously let your lower jaw relax downward, slightly separating your teeth.
- Goldfish exercises — Place an index finger in front of your ear where your TMJ is located. Put another finger on your chin. Open your jaw either halfway or all the way and feel the slight resistance.
- Chin tuck — Lightly link your hands behind your bottom to push your shoulders forward. Now pull your chin straight back as if you’re trying to create a double chin.
- Jaw resistance — Put your thumb under your chin and create some resistance as you open your mouth. Pinch your chin with forefingers and thumb of both hands to hold it when your mouth is open. Then close your mouth feeling the resistance.
- Tongue up — Hold your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, and then slowly open and close your mouth.
- Side-to-side and forward jaw movement — Place an object that’s about ¼ inch between your front teeth. First, move your jaw slowly from side to side with the object between your teeth. Then do the same thing, but this time move your bottom jaw forward so your bottom teeth are in front of your top teeth.
TMJ Treatment Testimonial
It is so nice to not wake up with severe jaw PAIN everyday… Dr Frey is AMAZING, AWESOME, PERSISTENT and a Dentist with INTEGRITY. Actually ALL of you are. You are the GREATEST team that I have ever seen. Even my lips looked full & beautiful for my age. My ENTIRE FACE looks Better & younger. Thanks a BIG BUNCH.
-LC on Google