Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ) affect over 10 million Americans, with top causes including stress, arthritis, injury, a misaligned bind, or bruxism (night clenching and grinding).
TMJ can cause pain, jaw popping, headaches, pain in the temples and/or ears, and difficulty opening and closing the mouth. These disorders are treated with one or more of the following approaches: anti-inflammatory medication, exercises, Botox, and (in some cases) surgery, although if you have severe pain or long-term TMJ, it is important to see a doctor, since they may recommend an MRI (or a CT scan or X Ray) to determine the root cause of your pain.
As prevalent as TMJ is, it is just one of many issues that can affect the jaw. The following factors and conditions may also cause pain and tension, thus wresting from your wellbeing and affecting your mood and your ability to focus.
If you have lost one or more teeth to decay or injury, you may not worry if the gaps are in the back of your mouth (i.e. not visible when you smile). Gaps in your bite may affect your jaw, however, by causing pain and tension and causing you to clench your teeth at night.
If you have missing teeth, see your dentists about the suitability of implants. Even if your gap has existed for years and your bone levels are low, your dentist can discuss treatments such as bone implantation, which will help your implants take hold, and help correct problems with your bite.
An asymmetrical jaw can be caused by many factors – including TMJ, lifestyle habits (such as sleeping one one side of your face, thus causing misalignment), injury, and smoking. In some cases, asymmetric jawlines can be treated naturally – for instance, by correcting posture, performing facial stretches, and performing cheek toning exercises. However, there are quicker means to achieve a more symmetric appearance in this area – including fillers and facial implants (the latter can be considered a permanent solution).
If you fracture, break or dislocate your jaw, you can experience everything from intense pain to the unhinging of your jaw from the skull. Jaw fractures are actually more common than you may think – they are the third most frequently fractured area (after the nose and cheekbone). Signs of a fracture can include bruising and swelling along the jaw, a feeling that teeth are now misaligned, difficulty opening your mouth, and numbness in the lower lip or chin. See your doctor to ensure your fracture is treated quickly and correctly. Simply leaving your jaw to heal on its own could potentially lead to permanent pain, limited movement, or facial deformity.
TMJ is a disorder affecting millions of people, with causes ranging from stress to night-time teeth grinding. There are many other issues that can affect your jaw health, including jaw asymmetry, injuries, and missing teeth. If you have pain and discomfort, see a health professional about it. Chronic pain can affect your ability to live, work, focus, and enjoy life, and often, a natural approach (including postural improvement and exercises) can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.