TMJ or TMD as it is often called, is complex and there are often many causes of it. Some include infections, injuries to the jaw, dental procedures, arthritis, autoimmune problems and even breathing tubes inserted prior to surgeries.
There are also environment, genetic and hormonal factors that can increase the risks for getting the condition. Studies show that there is a gene variant that increases a person’s sensitivity to pain. This variant is more prevalent among TMJ patients than it is among the general population.
Another observation is that jaw problems are commonly found in women of childbearing age. This observation has led some researchers to feel that there is a role that female sex hormones like estrogen play in TMJ.
Environmental factors that cause it would include chewing gum constantly. Also, if a person puts a phone on his or her shoulder as a habit, he or she might be more inclined to experience TMJ. Singers and violinists are also prime candidates for this issue. Prolonged positioning of the head and neck to hold an instrument has a lot to do with causing it.
The Major Symptoms of TMJ or TMD
The pain of TMJ is often dull but intense. It can come and go as the jaw loosens or clamps down, especially during eating or during times of stress when many people clench their jaws. The pain can spread to areas surrounding the jaw.
However, there are some people who report no pain, but they report having problems moving their jaws. Other symptoms may include the following:
- Pain in jaw muscles
- Soreness in the neck or shoulders
- Recurring headaches
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- A sensation of the jaw locking
- Ear pain or tinnitus
- Uncomfortable feeling of the jaw clicking, popping or grating against itself
- An off-kilter bite
Occasional discomfort or clicking in the jaw area or in the chewing muscles can occur without being a concern. If the problem goes away on its own in a few days, it is nothing to worry about, but if it persists, becomes more painful and lasts more than two weeks, contact your health care practitioner.