A TMJ disorder is a painful condition that involves the temporomandibular joint, or more commonly known as the jaw joint, which connects the skull to your mandible or jawbone. A TMJ disorder is any problem which affects the way the joint moves or functions, with exact causes that may be challenging to determine. However, some factors that have been associated with TMJ disorder include teeth grinding or bruxism, jaw injury or trauma to the face, and arthritis.
One of the first and most common symptoms of a TMJ disorder is a painful jaw. This is caused by the pressure to the jaw joint, which can be caused by blunt force applied to the area, or regular teeth grinding. The pain can also radiate to the neck, head, ears, and whole facial area. The joint area itself will feel tender, and the discomfort may affect only one side/joint, or both. A clicking sound can be heard when the mouth of a TMJ problem sufferer is opened wide, which suggests that there is a problem with the way the joint moves. In some instances, the jaw may lock and it would be difficult for the mouth to be opened or closed. The jaw pain can also involve painful chewing or swallowing.
Stress management is often part of the treatment plan for a TMJ problem, to prevent the continuous grinding of teeth due to negative emotions. Stress can be managed by relaxation techniques that provide a tension release other than grinding the teeth together. Mouth guards may also be used to keep the lower teeth from grinding against the upper teeth.