When referencing problems of the temporomandibular joint- the jaw joint- they are most commonly referred to as “TMJ.”
A wide range of symptoms can be associated with a TMJ problem, including clicking or popping of the jaw joint; headaches; ear pain and/or pressure; ringing or noise in the ears; jaw joint locking; change in dental bite; and neck, shoulder and upper back pain.
TMJ Problems and Treatment
According to the American Dental Association, 44-99 percent of TMJ problems are a result of injury such as whiplash. It is not certain what else may cause TMJ problems.
A dentist might treat TMJ problems first by prescribing reversible treatments that include the use of medications, local anesthetics, chiropractic care and physical therapy, to name a few examples. Non-reversible therapy may be tried if these methods do not work and could include adjusting the dental bite, orthodontics, applying crowns or even surgery.
Diagnosing TMJ Problems
TMJ problems often are difficult to diagnose. The patient may go to an ear doctor about ear pain or a general practitioner or neurologist for treatment of headaches. Because the symptoms are diverse, it can be difficult to discover the root cause of the pain. There also are many myofacial syndromes that have similar symptoms to TMJ problems. These may be problems or injuries with other ligaments, tendons, muscles or nerves in the head and face. With diagnosis being so difficult, many people may receive improper treatment for years, which can lead to depression.
If you are concerned that you may have a TMJ problem, you should talk to your dentist about who to see for a correct diagnosis. The American Academy of Craniofacial Pain can help you find a dentist or doctor who specializes in TMJ problem diagnosis and treatment.