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Know the Warning Signs of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)

Do you experience a weird clicking sound when you open and close your mouth? Does your jaw ache, or do you have trouble opening your mouth wide? Do you suffer from a sore neck or headaches that occur behind your ears? You could be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD. Often erroneously referred to as TMJ, TMD is a condition of the temporomandibular joint (the actual TMJ). So, how do you know if you have TMD? Check out this list of common TMD symptoms and see if you might be at risk.

 

Tinnitus: Do you hear a frequent, persistent ringing, clicking or buzzing in your ears, even when the room is completely silent? That ringing, which can range from annoying to unbearable, is called tinnitus. According to TMJ.org, about one in 10 American adults experiences persistent tinnitus (episodes that exceed three months) each year. At least some of those cases may be related to TMD. 

Though doctors are unable to explain exactly why TMD causes tinnitus, some popular theories suggest that the ringing comes from the ear’s proximity to the TMJ, or that the TMJ shares ligaments with the ear. Whatever the exact cause, if TMD is to blame, the only treatment for this type of tinnitus is to correct the TMD.

Jaw Clicking: There are basically two reasons that the jaw may click or pop when you open it. The first is a normal subluxation of the jaw that occurs when the lower jawbone passes over a ridge in the upper jawbone. This is due to the hyperextension of the lower jaw, and is not a cause for concern. 

Conversely, if you notice a clicking or popping noise when you are closing your mouth, you could be at risk for a TMD. This is caused when a disc inside the temporomandibular joint slips forward when the jaw is closing. It may also be followed by an even louder popping sound when you open your mouth again and the disc must realign itself.

Headaches: It may be difficult to tell if those severe headaches you’ve been having are from stress, sinuses, migraines or TMD, but there are a few red flags to keep an eye out for. First of all, if the headache is accompanied by any other TMD symptoms (clicking jaw, stiff jaw, tinnitus or ear pain) there’s a good chance it could be a TMD headache. If the headache is accompanied by nausea, light sensitivity or fatigue, it may not be related to TMD. That being said, TMJ disorders have been known to cause migraines, so if you are experiencing a migraine, don’t rule TMD out.

Neck or Shoulder Pain: Even though the TMJ is located in your jaw, a TMD can still cause considerable pain to your neck, shoulders and back. This is because when your TMJ doesn’t work properly, the surrounding muscles may spasm or become overworked due to the pressure on the TMJ muscles. This pain can manifest as stiffness, arthritis, inability to turn your head, and the sound of joints popping or cracking when you turn your head.

Another common cause of neck or back pain with TMJ is nerve damage caused by strain on the temporal artery.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, or if you have any other unexplained symptoms that you are concerned may be related to the TMJ or a temporomandibular joint disorder, give Dr. Simpson’s office a call at 910-550-3959.

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