If you are suffering from recurring headaches and ear pain, it could indicate you have TMJ disorder. TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint that connects the lower part of the jaw to the skull. Some people suffering from TMJ experience neck pain. Others report their jaw locks up or catches. When there is a problem with this joint, it can result in chewing troubles as well as pain.
To determine where the joint is, place your fingers right in front of your ears. Open your mouth. You will feel the rounded ends of the lower part of the jaw gliding along the joint socket of the temporal bone.
What Prompts TMJ?
Why does TMJ occur? No one knows for sure. It could be the result of trauma to the jaw, clenching or grinding of teeth (bruxism) or whiplash. It is believed arthritis may be the culprit at times although those without arthritis are not immune from TMJ.
When this problem is present, an individual may hear his jaw snap and pop. Other indicators TMJ is present include swelling in the side of the face, pain in the face and jaw joints, shoulders or neck; muscle spasms; headaches; ringing in the ears; vertigo; popping sounds emanating from the jaw and difficulty opening or closing the jaw or lock jaw.
When portions of the TMJ system including tissues, muscles, bones and ligaments either become inflamed or dislocated the disorder appears. This problem can crop up at any age, but it mostly strikes those who are young and female.
Women and TMJ
The reason women are afflicted with TMJ more so than men may be due to stress. Additionally, those women with arthritis or fibromyalgia are at higher risk of acquiring this disorder. Hormones are believed to play a part. Those females taking hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptives are more likely to experience jaw pain than those who don’t. It was discovered estrogen receptors are present in the temporomandibular joints of female baboons but not were discovered in males. Estrogen is a female hormone.
The menstrual cycle can contribute to vitamin deficiencies, including an insufficiency of magnesium. This may explain in part why women during their childbearing years are at risk of developing TMJ. Women suffering from TMJ often have a magnesium dearth.
Collagen, which is a fibrous protein found in skin, bone, and other connective tissues, that holds the disk in position between the joint’s ball, and the socket is different in women from the collagen found in this same joint in men, which may lead to dislocated disks, prompting TMJ.
When a person is undergoing stress, he may grind his teeth at night while sleeping. This can lead to jaw problems as well as damage teeth and prompt headaches. When teeth are ground together this puts force on the muscles and tissues in the mouth as well as the jaw. If you suspect you are grinding teeth, tell your dentist. You need to wear a bruxism guard in your mouth when sleeping.
Misalignment and Lock Jaw
When there is misalignment of the bones in the tempore-mandibular joint, biting and chewing causes more tension on the joint and this can lead to lock jaw. When lock jaw occurs, the lower jaw can’t be moved, and the individual suffers a great deal of pain. The misalignment occurs due to grinding teeth, extreme chewing or teeth that are skewed. Yawning or opening one’s mouth too wide can lead to lock jaw. Older people are at higher risk than younger people for experiencing this condition.
A dentist can determine if you have TMJ. In the meantime, put warm compresses on your jaw and do jaw exercises that relax this area of your face. Do not eat tacky or rigid foods.
[box type=”note”]About the Author: Lesley Inglin writes widely about issues surrounding dental health. She feels that Dr. Chet Hawkins sets the gold standard for dentists in Texas.[/box]