TMJ disorders have been called the "Great Impostors" due to the fact that many of the symptoms have overlapping characteristics, which often mimic other conditions. Because these symptoms masquerade so many other conditions, many people travel from medical doctor to medical specialist in search of a cure. Most patients never think to contact a dentist since the symptoms are primarily medical in nature.
TMJ Symptoms May Include Any of The Following:
- Earaches, congestion or ringing in the ears
- Clicking, popping or grating sounds when opening and closing the mouth
- Limited jaw opening or locking
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Dizziness and fainting
- Pain when chewing
- Facial pain
- Difficulty closing the teeth together
- Tired jaws when chewing
- Numbness in hands
- Difficulty in swallowing
Signs That You May Have A TMJ Problem:
- Clenching and grinding of the teeth (bruxism) is a common sign of TMJ disorder. The clenching and grinding of the teeth put additional stress on already tired, overworked muscles and can result in pain being referred to the head, neck, face, shoulder or back.
- Headaches are one of the most common complaints of TMJ sufferers and these headaches are frequently so severe they can be confused with migraine headaches. TMJ headaches are most often felt in the temple area, behind the eyes and at the back of the head with pain radiating to the neck and shoulders. Migraine headaches are mainly on one side with the patient suffering from visual disturbances and being extremely sensitive to light. The treatment for migraine headaches is much different from headaches caused by dislocated joints.
- One of the most common signs of a TMJ problem is a jaw joint making noise such as clicking, popping or grating sounds. This clicking sound occurs when the condyle (top of the lower jaw) moves forward when the patient opens the mouth and the condyle slips on and off the dislocated disc. The grating sound, called crepitus, is the sound of bone rubbing on bone and occurs later on when the dislocated discs become completely deformed.
- If the patient suffers from ear pain, ringing or buzzing in the ears, fullness or a stuffy feeling without any ear infection, then this could be related to a structural problem within the TM joint. Other symptoms include a loss of hearing, dizziness and loss of balance.
- Sleep disturbances are common in patients suffering from dislocated jaw joints. The brain frequently does not allow the patient to reach the deep stages of sleep and they are awakened many times during the night. The patient does not awaken feeling well rested and refreshed, but rather they often feel tired and listless with an obvious lack of energy to face the new day.
- Depression is another common sign of patients who suffer from TM joint dysfunction for an extended period of time. These patients suffer constantly from chronic pain with no obvious solution in sight. Depression is a problem for both the medical and dental profession to try and solve. If the pain is originating from a tumor (very rare), an infection, systemic disease, nutritional deficiency, allergies or traumatic injuries, then the medical profession should be consulted. However, if the problem is a dislocated jaw or clenching or grinding habits causing TM joint pain, a properly trained member of the dental profession should be involved in the diagnosis and treatment.