Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is the name given to a number of common disorders that affect the alignment and function of your jaw. There can be several causes of TMJ including persistent grinding of the teeth, trauma or impact to the jaw, and arthritis, but oftentimes the cause of TMJ is unknown.
TMJ may be asymptomatic, only detected during your regularly scheduled examinations and teeth cleanings with Dr. Barton. In most cases however, TMJ is easily recognizable by symptoms including:
- Pain in and around the jaw
- Clicking or popping in the jaw
- Limited jaw mobility or complete lockjaw
- Frequent headaches
- Ear aches
- Back and neck aches
During your regularly scheduled visits, Dr. Barton will thoroughly inspect the alignment of your jaw. If TMJ is detected, he will discuss TMJ treatment options with you.
The Dangers of Untreated TMJ
One of the primary dangers of untreated TMJ is chronic pain. TMJ can result in jaw discomfort, but has also been identified as a cause of migraine and tension headaches. This can result in a reliance on prescription pain medication that treats the symptoms, but cannot prevent future occurrences.
In many cases, TMJ leads to chronic pain in the ears, neck, and back as well. Like headaches, these discomforts are frequently treated by pain medications. Again, these medications cannot solve the problem; they can just minimize your daily pain.
TMJ can cause many dental problems as well. When your jaw is misaligned, your bite will be impacted. This can lead to uneven tooth wear requiring expensive dental restorations. It can also lead to an overuse of muscles on one side of your jaw, resulting in a lopsided facial appearance. Many people with TMJ suffer from eating disorders and malnourishment because the act of chewing is so uncomfortable.
Postural problems are also linked to TMJ. When your jaw slopes downward, the pull on adjacent muscles can bring your neck and back out of alignment. This can result in a sloped, hunched posture which can impact bone strength, muscle tension, and even internal organs.
Due to the risks of untreated TMJ, it is important to bring any symptoms to the attention of Dr. Barton as soon as they appear.
Please contact us today to schedule your initial TMJ evaluation. Dr. Thomas Barton serves patients in Kansas City, Missouri.