TMJ is an acronym that means “temporo-mandibular joint.” Symptoms are varied because this joint is complex and there are many possible TMJ disorders.
Excessive grinding of the teeth or clenching (bruxism) is a common symptom. This grinding can cause pain in the jaw muscles or excessive wearing of the teeth.
Tooth wear is manifested by flat areas on the chewing surfaces of back teeth, by shortening of the front teeth over the years, and by notches in the teeth along the gumline.
Other TMJ symptoms come from spasms in the jaw muscles. This can result in limited mouth opening, or deviation of the jaw to one side when it opens.
The jaw joint can also become locked open.
TMJ disorder often brings spasms in the jaw muscles. These spasms can also cause pain. The pain can seem to be confined to the chewing muscles, or it can radiate and be manifest as headaches which can sometimes be so severe as to be debilitating. The most common TMJ related headache is located on the side of the head over the area of the temple. This is called a temporal headache and is often misdiagnosed as a migraine.
The patient can have difficulty swallowing.
There can be nausea associated with these headaches.
The temporomandibular joints are located just in front of the ears. Thus, TMJ symptoms can include ear ache, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), loss of hearing, or dizziness. These problems along with combinations of other TMJ symptoms can cause difficulty sleeping.
There may also be noises in the joint, such as clicking or popping or a grinding noise that is called crepitus.
Bruxism can also lead to hot and cold sensitivity in the teeth. Also, the clenching and grinding can cause over development of the supporting bone. This overgrowth of bone shows up as bumps of bone near the roots of teeth, and they are called tori.
—Dr. David Hall
Read Dr. Hall’s blog posts about TMJ.