How TMJ Pain Is Diagnosed

TMJ Troy, MI

Someone who experiences pain or discomfort in the jaw may have TMJ or temporomandibular joint syndrome. This condition can be especially aggravated when the person is biting, chewing or opening the mouth wide, such as when yawning. It affects millions of people every year, and according to WebMD, affects women more often than men.

TMJ syndrome

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to TMJ syndrome.

Causes

While a cause may not always be known, those who have experienced an injury or infection to the teeth or jaw may be more prone to developing this condition. It can sometimes happen following dental surgery. Things that cause overuse of the jaw, such as chewing gum, can be a contributing factor, according to medicinenet.com. Even simple things such as stress and poor posture can cause TMJ syndrome to develop. It may be a combination of these things that cause a person to form jaw issues or none of these. According to medicalnewstoday.com, violinists have a higher rate of this condition, as the position of the violin against the jaw can cause tension and strain.

Symptoms

Pain or discomfort in the jaw is one of the main indicators of TMJ syndrome. This is especially true if clicking or popping occurs when a person tries to open their mouth. Sometimes, the jaw can get locked into position, taking a little extra effort to get it to open or close. This can make things such as eating, speaking or yawning more challenging. The pain starts in the jaw area, but can also cause ear pain, headaches, and even a neck or backache. It can also make it difficult to sleep in certain positions, such as on the side. 

TMJ diagnosis

TMJ diagnosis can be a challenge.

Diagnosis

A doctor can evaluate symptoms and make a diagnosis. Sometimes, an X-ray may be taken to confirm, although this is not a typical requirement for diagnosis. However, since there is no lab test, and jaw symptoms can be caused by a variety of issues, it can be difficult to diagnose at times. An MRI can help a doctor see the jaw's structure to determine if there are any issues. Looking at the tissue and bones through imaging can also be helpful.

Treatment

Many people will experience TMJ syndrome only temporarily, and it will go away on its own. Treatments primarily involve self-care methods to help prevent pain. For example, a temporary diet of soft foods may help. Stress management and bite guards may be beneficial for reducing the amount of tension in the jaw. Certain exercises and physical therapy can be a more long-term solution. Some of these treatments will depend on the cause of the syndrome.

Conclusion

TMJ syndrome is a common, yet bothersome, condition. It can be caused by a variety of factors, and pain in the jaw is one of the primary symptoms. Diagnosis can be made by a doctor after examining the jaw, evaluating symptoms and running necessary tests. While there is no cure for TMJ syndrome, it often goes away on its own with self-care and physical therapy.

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