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What is TMJ Syndrome?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen

The temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) attaches the jaw to the upper part of the skull. TMJ syndrome is a term used to refer to a particular kind of discomfort that can happen due to a variety of problems with the TMJ. When people are suffering from TMJ syndrome, they may have pain in the face, jaw or ear areas, and they also often have problems with bite alignment. In many cases, these problems are intermittent and sometimes it can be hard to determine exactly what is causing them. TMJ Syndrome is often related to muscle problems in the jaw, joint misalignments, or sometimes damaged cartilage due to arthritis and other illnesses.

TMJ syndrome is a fairly common problem, and it often goes undiagnosed because it may come and go on its own, so symptoms aren't always persistent enough to cause concern. There is a great deal of disparity in terms of the effects of TMJ syndrome on different people. For some people, the disorder is much more severe than it is for others.

A person with TMJ.
A person with TMJ.

This general disparity leads to a wide variety of symptoms. For example, some people may simply have problems with ear pain. These individuals may never suspect that they’re having a jaw problem, and if doctors don’t check them carefully, they may not be properly diagnosed. For other people, TMJ syndrome symptoms can be much more severe, making it nearly impossible for them to bite down and eat, and in those cases, people are more likely to seek medical attention.

Ice packs may be used to reduce swelling related to TMJ.
Ice packs may be used to reduce swelling related to TMJ.

One of the more common signs of TMJ syndrome is popping of the jaw joint while biting down. Sometimes this may not be accompanied by any particular pain, and people may ignore it until it goes away. Once someone suffers an episode of this sort of jaw popping, however, there is a chance that symptoms may return at a later time.

Treatment of TMJ syndrome generally varies depending on the underlying issue that’s causing the problem. For most people, taking a little time to rest the jaw can allow symptoms to gradually subside. Others take various pain medications while their symptoms are acting up. In very extreme cases in which the symptoms won’t go away, doctors will sometimes resort to surgical correction of the joint. Any kind of surgery involving the jaw is generally pretty serious, and it can lead to a lengthy recovery period.

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    • A person with TMJ.
      By: sakura
      A person with TMJ.
    • Ice packs may be used to reduce swelling related to TMJ.
      By: liveostockimages
      Ice packs may be used to reduce swelling related to TMJ.