There are many symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD). Unfortunately, not everyone realizes that TMJ can have quite so many varied symptoms. In fact, some people think that if their jaw isn’t making noise, they don’t have TMJ. That’s not the case at all, and it’s important to understand that you can’t eliminate TMJ on the basis of just one symptom. Instead, we have to consider all your symptoms to get a proper diagnosis.
Many Types of TMJ
First, it’s important to understand that TMJ isn’t just one condition. It’s one label, but it’s actually many different conditions, probably more different conditions than we know. But we know that there are at least three distinct types of TMJ:
- Muscle-based TMJ
- Disc displacement TMJ
- Degenerative joint disease TMJ
People can have one, two, or all three types of TMJ. Muscle-based TMJ is the most common. This type of jaw condition is when your muscles aren’t properly working together with each other and/or your joints and teeth, so they end up getting sore. This can cause cause jaw pain, neck pain, headaches, and discomfort anywhere you have muscles. The muscle-based TMJ is also the one that’s most strongly linked to tinnitus.
After muscle pain, the most common type of TMJ is disc displacement. This is when the cushioning disc that separates the bones in the joint slips out of place. This is also the TMJ type that is most associated with popping and clicking, which occurs when the disc slips in and out of place. It also causes jaw lock and irregular jaw motion.
Degenerative joint disease occurs when the cushioning disc and/or bones breaks down. This can cause irregular jaw motion, jaw lock, and other symptoms, but not usually popping and clicking.
Watch for Many TMJ Symptoms
If you are really trying to figure out whether you have TMJ or not, it’s important to be aware of the full range of symptoms caused by TMJ. These include:
- Tooth wear
- Jaw pain
- Neck pain
- Ear aches
- Ear fullness
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers
- Back pain
If you have a few of the symptoms on this list, it’s likely that you have TMJ. One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is one that people often don’t think of: tinnitus. As much as 80% of people with TMJ may have tinnitus or other ear-related symptoms. And some studies suggest that perhaps 94% of people with tinnitus have TMJ. So if you’re considering your risk of TMJ, you should pay as much attention to the sound in your ears than the sound in your joint.
Let Us Diagnose Your TMJ
It’s important to get TMJ diagnosed sooner rather than later. The condition is progressive, so the longer you leave it untreated, the more it can damage your teeth and joints.
TMJ is hard to diagnose in part because its symptoms can be so variable. To get a proper diagnosis, you need someone who is equipped with the scientific tools to identify the condition accurately.