Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) - Causes

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What are TMJ disorders, and what are causes of TMJ disorders?

TMJ disorders are a group of complex problems of the jaw joint. TMJ disorders are also sometimes referred to as myofascial pain dysfunction and Costen's syndrome. Because muscles and joints work together, a problem with either one can lead to stiffness, headaches, ear pain, bite problems (malocclusion), clicking sounds, or locked jaws. The following are behaviors or conditions that can lead to TMJ disorders.

  1. Teeth grinding and teeth clenching (bruxism) increase the wear on the cartilage lining of the TMJ. Those who grind or clench their teeth may be unaware of this behavior unless they are told by someone observing this pattern while sleeping or by a dental professional noticing telltale signs of wear and tear on the teeth. Many patients awaken in the morning with jaw or ear pain.
  2. Habitual gum chewing or fingernail biting
  3. Dental problems and misalignment of the teeth (malocclusion). Patients may complain that it is difficult to find a comfortable bite or that the way their teeth fit together has changed. Chewing on only one side of the jaw can lead to or be a result of TMJ problems.
  4. Trauma to the jaws: Previous fractures in the jaw or facial bones can lead to TMJ disorders.
  5. Stress frequently leads to unreleased nervous energy. It is very common for people under stress to release this nervous energy by either consciously or unconsciously grinding and clenching their teeth.
  6. Occupational tasks or habits such as holding the telephone between the head and shoulder may contribute to TMJ disorders.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: /ED1975, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: June 04

My TMJ became increasingly noticeable in the first nine months of my recovery period following substance abuse. My drug of choice was opiates, not meth, which naturally harms the teeth. Once sober, which is a very difficult process, I turned from pills back to food/sweets, specifically lollipops with chewy centershundreds of them over the last year. I have since stopped with the lollipops and am trying not to allow myself to switch to another unhealthy addiction. Ever since, the left side of my jaw clicks when chewing, snaps when yawning, and locks at times. I can only chew most foods on the right side of my mouth. Carrots, raw vegetables, meats, chewy, hard, or crunchy foods take a long time. I can't handle large burgers or sandwiches that require my mouth to have to open wide. I often have to put pressure on the joint just in front of my ear when I chew to prevent my jaw from dislocating. I have a fear of dentists, so unless it's something simple as a bite plate to realign my jaw, I probably will live with this until I can't stand it any longer!

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Comment from: Lynne, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 06

I have been a snorer for many years and have tried many things to stop. Recently I purchased a Snorer's Friend (mandibular advancement device) similar to a mouth guard which is worn at night. It keeps the jaw in a forward position and really DOES help to stop snoring!! But I found I had a lot of pain each morning and it took hours for my teeth to re-align. Unfortunately I persisted in wearing the device and even after three weeks of stopping its use I have jaw, ear and head pain.

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