Dentist Fresno 4 Warning Signs of a TMJ Problem

Fresno Dentist Shares Temporomandibular Joint Issues

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), commonly known as the jaw joint, is the hinge-like joint that allows for opening and closing of your mouth. Unique among all joints in the body, the TMJ is both a hinge joint and an arthroidal joint--meaning that it moves freely in almost every direction. Not surprisingly, a joint of this complexity and usage is vulnerable to a variety of problems. The umbrella term for pain or disorders in the jaw muscles and the joint itself is Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD), although "TMJ" is often interchangeable with TMD. If you are concerned that you may have a TMJ issue, consider these 4 symptoms as possible warning signs.
 
Teeth Grinding/Clenching
 
While some dentists might argue that teeth grinding and clenching is a cause of TMD rather than an effect, there is no question that the two are linked. Tooth grinding, properly known as "bruxism," can occur when the muscles responsible for opening and closing the mouth are strained, or due to a problem with the joint itself. Clenching and grinding seems to happen most often during sleep, which is why many people report soreness first thing in the morning. 
 
Headaches
 
Obviously, headaches are common and can be a symptom of a great many problems. But headaches that predominate in the morning and are concentrated to the temples and top of the head are often associated with TMD. A large muscle known as the temporalis is attached at one end to the lower jaw and spreads in a fan-like shape up the sides of the head. When TMJ problems are present, especially when combined with grinding, this muscle can become very sore. 
 
Clicking or Popping in the Jaw
 
If your temporomandibular joint makes clicking or popping sounds when you open or close, this may be a sign of TMD. The sound itself is rarely actually audible, but the proximity of the joint to your ear makes it possible for you to detect it. The sound itself is caused by the head of the jaw bone sliding over cartilage in the joint. If this cartilage becomes displaced, clicking and popping (properly known as “crepitus”) occurs. 
 
Changes in the Way Your Teeth Fit Together
 
Typically a symptom of a more serious TMD issue, changes in your bite pattern or the way your teeth touch one another is a sign of dysfunction or displacement of the TMJ. What’s more, a change in your bite pattern may cause your jaw to work harder to chew, thereby exacerbating the issue. 
The good news is that there are treatments and methods for managing your discomfort. If you are experiencing these or any other symptoms in your TMJ, a visit to your Fresno dentist is definitely in order.