In recent years, dentists, orthodontists, and doctors have become increasingly aware of the seriousness and frequency of TMJ disorder. In fact, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 10 million Americans may suffer from this condition, which causes inflammation in the jaw joints and surrounding tissues. While most people associate TMJ disorder with jaw pain, as your Ft. Worth orthodontist will explain in this post, TMJ disorder has a wide range of symptoms.
What Is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder (TMD) arises when there is pain, irritation, or inflammation in the temporomandibular joint (TM joint), the surrounding muscles, or the nearby ligaments. This joint is extremely complex, and offers a wide range of motion; your TM joint allows you to open and close your mouth and move it side to side. This joint is in almost constant motion, and you probably do not realize the thousands of tiny movements that your jaw joint makes each day. TMD is a rather mysterious condition because doctors are still not certain of its causes. Sometimes it is the result of repeated grinding or clinching of the teeth, and it can also result from a blow to the head or face. TMD can also occur when the soft, cushioning pad between the joints has slipped out of place.
The Unexpected Symptoms
As you might expect, the most common TMD symptoms include jaw pain, tightness in jaw, and a popping noise when opening or closing the mouth. However, there are a number of symptoms that seemingly have nothing to do with the jaw. Because the symptoms are apparently unconnected to the jaw, many people suffer for years, unaware that relief is within their reach. Some of these surprising symptoms include:
- 1. Ringing of the ears (tinnitus) – Much like TMD itself, scientists are not sure about the cause of TMJ-related tinnitus. It may have something to do with the chewing muscles that run very close to the muscles of the middle ear. Alternatively, the ligaments that attach to the jaw also attach to one of the bones in the inner ear. Finally, other scientists suggest that nerves surrounding the TMJ connect to the part of the brain that registers sounds and monitors hearing.
- 2. Dizziness – Researchers are still investigating the link between vertigo and TMD. However, experts believe that when the muscles and ligaments around the jaw become inflamed, it also affects the nerves of the inner ear, which control the body’s sense of balance.
- 3. Speech impediments – TMD and malocclusion (or a misaligned bite) are often interrelated. Because speech is as dependant on the position of the teeth and tongue as it is on the vocal cords, patients with TMD may often speak with a slight impediment. In fact, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville recently announced that she is speaking with a slight lisp this season because of her struggles with TMD.
- 4. Blurred vision – Much in the same way that TMD can cause hearing problems, the disorder can also result in vision issues. Inflamed nerves behind the eyes can lead to blurred vision, eye twitches, and light sensitivity.
- 5. Neurological conditions – In some cases, patients with TMJ may hold their neck in an unnatural position, either because of stress or in an attempt to alleviate the pain in their jaw. In turn, this can put pressure on the nerves surrounding the neck, leading to numbness and tingling in the arms and legs. In some rare, extreme cases, TMJ can cause impaired thinking and involuntary muscle twitches.
Schedule an Appointment
If you have experienced one or more of these symptoms, you may be suffering from TMD. To learn more about this condition and your treatment options, call our office at (817) 236-7846. Dr. Ciro Cabal proudly serves patients of all ages from Ft. Worth, Azle, Saginaw, Springtown, Weatherford, Haslet, and the surrounding areas.