TMJ Disorder can present itself in many different ways, with a wide range of symptoms:
Most common symptoms:
Pain in the jaw joints: Remember, if you put your fingers at the front part of your ears, you can feel the joint when you open and close. This is normal to feel the joint, but discomfort in this area when opening and closing is a symptom of TMJ Disorder. This discomfort may even extend into your ears, neck and shoulders.
Muscle aches and muscle spasms in the muscles used to open and close your mouth: Numerous muscles help your mouth open and close. Aches and pains in these muscles is probably the most common symptom of TMJ Disorder. You may feel discomfort every time you chew, speak or yawn. Some people feel pain in these muscles even when they are relaxed and not being used. These muscle aches may even extend into your neck muscles, shoulders and upper back.
Other Common Symptoms:
Clicking or Popping of your jaw joint: If you feel or hear a clicking or popping when you open or close, this can be a symptom of TMJ Disorder. The best test for this is to put your fingers in front of your ears and open and close a few times. You may feel (or hear) this clicking or popping only on one side or both sides. You may feel (or hear) this only on opening, only on closing, or both. However, clicking or popping of a jaw joint does not necessarily imply one has TMJ Disorder.
Ear Pain: The jaw joint is directly in front of your ear, so TMJ Disorder can cause ear problems (such as ringing).
Sensitive Teeth: Some patients with TMJ Disorder have extremely sensitive teeth despite the absence of dental problems.
Locked-Jaw: In this situation, the jaw feels locked in position, typically when opening or yawning widely.
Headaches: Frequent headaches, especially upon waking up, can be a symptom of TMJ Disorder.
Dizziness: Some patients with TMJ Disorder present with dizziness that cannot be explained by other causative factors.
Swelling: In the area of your jaw joint, you may have swelling on one or both sides.
Bite Problems: Patients with TMJ Disorder often complain of bite problems such as: only chewing on one side, only chewing on a few select teeth, and/or recent bite changes.
Difficulty or Painful Opening: Difficulty or pain while opening widely is a common symptom.
About my experiences helping patients with TMJ Disorder
After attending and teaching at Tufts Dental School, I moved to south Florida with my wife Joanne and have been practicing in the Delray and Boynton Beach area for over 25 years. Each year, more new patients come to my office for treatment of TMJ Disorder. The disease is certainly becoming more prevalent. Some dentists attribute this to the elevated stress levels in America, while others believe patients are just more apt to seek care. Regardless, if you experience symptoms, my strongest advise is to seek a professional opinion. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a TMJ evaluation, please feel free to contact us