Temporomandibular Joint Pain (TMJ)
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is situated directly in front of the ear, on either side of the head where the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) connect. TMJ pain usually results from overuse of the jaw muscles or excessive tension in the jaw area. Importantly, many symptoms of TMJ may not seem related to the TMJ itself. Common TMJ-related symptoms include headache (often made worse by exposure to cold air); ear pain; grinding, crunching, clicking or popping sounds (crepitus); muffled hearing or ‘full’ ears; ringing in the ear (tinnitus); and dizziness. TMJ disorders are also referred to as myofascial pain dysfunction or Costen’s syndrome.
Common causes of TMJ-related pain include teeth grinding and teeth clenching (bruxism); habitual gum chewing or fingernail biting; dental problems such as misaligned teeth (malocclusion); stress; and aggravating habits such as persistently holding a telephone receiver between the jaw and shoulder, or sleeping in an awkward position.
Treatment can include one or more of the following:
- Jaw rest
- Heat and ice therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Stress management
- Occlusal therapy (mouth guard)
- Corrective dental therapy
- Surgery – if symptoms persist
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