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5 Facts Everyone Should Know About TMJ Syndrome

Marsha Gordon -- Next to toothache, TMJ is the second most common kind of facial pain affecting approximately 10 million people in the U.S. If you experience headaches, earaches, facial and jaw pain, and sometimes a clicking sound with jaw movement, you may have this condition.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a condition that affects the joints and chewing muscles that join the skull and the lower jaw. To get an idea of where this joint is located, place your hand just below your ear, then open and close your mouth. Next to toothache, it is the second most common kind of facial pain affecting approximately 10 million people in the U.S.

The condition is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 and generally seen more in women than men. Persons with this disorder often complain of symptoms such as headaches, earaches, facial and jaw pain, and sometimes a "clicking" sound with jaw movement. The cause can be due to a number of reasons, including an injury to the jaw or arthritis. If you feel the facial and jaw pain you are experiencing may be TMJ syndrome, consult your doctor for follow-up. Below are some additional facts about the condition.

How is TMJ syndrome diagnosed?

Since there is not a definitive test for diagnosing this condition, your doctor will start by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. The exam may include observation of various facial movements to determine a diagnosis. On some occasions, an MRI may be used to rule out other possible conditions or damage to the joints or cartilage.

What are the risk factors for this condition?

There are a number of risk factors associated with this condition. They include the following:

-- Generally affects females age 18-44
-- Arthritis
-- Chronic inflammatory disorders
-- Stress
-- Jaw injuries
-- Hereditary predisposition to pain sensitivity
-- Poorly positioned teeth (malocclusion)
-- Poor neck and upper back posture

What are some treatment options?

Treatment will generally depend on the root cause of the problem. The symptoms displayed by individuals with TMJ syndrome may vary and can respond to several treatment options and lifestyle modifications such as the following:

-- Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
-- Ice packs applied to the joint
-- Relaxation techniques and stress reduction
-- Avoiding of gum chewing
-- Eating soft foods

Symptoms such as malocclusion (improper bite) may be relieved through dentistry or orthodontics; however, individuals may consider other options as well. For example, osteopathic treatment is often used to provide relief for muscles spasms of the jaw and to improve joint mobility. Treatment generally includes stretching of the jaw, neck and back muscles, gentle massage and working on the posture, as well as the joints of the back and neck. Under complicated circumstances, when a patient cannot achieve relief through other means, surgery may be a treatment of last resort.

What is the prognosis?

Because the causes for this condition can vary, the outcome often depends on the root cause of the disorder. The general forecast for individuals affected by TMJ syndrome is positive. Many patients are able to manage the symptoms and find relief without undergoing radical treatment options like surgery.

Is the condition preventable?

Often persons exhibiting the risk factors for this disorder can reduce the occurrence of symptoms by making a few lifestyle modifications. These changes may include incorporating relaxation techniques and stress management, maintaining good posture, using dental appliances to prevent the grinding of teeth and eating soft foods.

To find out more about TMJ syndrome, visit today. Marsha Gordon is a wife, mom, sister, girlfriend, and avid dog-lover who likes old movies, good books, social media, and napping.

© 2014 Marsha Gordon

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