The temporomandibular joint, commonly known as TMJ, is a hinge that allows the jaw to move up and down. This joint is the most heavily utilized in the human body. It is critical to talking, eating, yawning, and making expressions. Multiple muscles work together with uniquely shaped cartilage to allow the TMJ to move properly. 

When this joint cannot function normally, the person affected will feel pain in the muscles that control jaw movement or the jaw joints. This condition is known as a TMJ disorder (TMD). It is hard to pinpoint what exactly causes a TMJ disorder. 

However, there are a number of factors that can lead to this condition. A TMJ disorder may result in lockjaw when someone experiences jaw muscle spasms or when their jaws are locked and cannot move. 

Signs of a TMJ Disorder

You know you have a TMJ disorder when you experience severe pain and discomfort in your jaw joints. Some disorders go away on their own, but some may need medical intervention. Signs that you may have a TMJ disorder include: 

  • Locking of your jaw joints making it difficult to chew or yawn 

  • Facial pain 

  • Swelling on the sides of your face around your ears 

  • A tired feeling on your face 

  • Grating, popping, or clicking sounds in the jaw joint when you close or open your mouth 

  • Upper shoulder pains 

  • Headaches and neck aches 

  • Change in the way your teeth fit together 

Causes of TMJ Disorders

There are a number of things that can affect the jaw joints. Some of the things that can cause pain and discomfort in your jaws include: 

  • Tetanus can cause spasms of the muscles of the jaw, causing jaw tightening. If left untreated, this condition can lead to serious health issues such as trouble breathing or swallowing 

  • Diseases such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can result in joint inflammation and degeneration. While these conditions often affect the elbows and hands, they can also affect the jaw joint 

  • Head injuries can lead to jaw disorders such as jaw dislocation or displacement of one of the jaw disks 

  • Stress can also cause TMJ disorders. Some people clench or grind their teeth when under stress, which can affect the jaw joints 

  • Bruxism is one of the leading causes of TMJ disorders. This is a condition where someone grinds their teeth while they are asleep. It can lead to tight and sore jaw muscles. If left untreated, bruxism can also hurt the temporomandibular joint 

Popular Treatments and Home Remedies for TMJ Disorder

Most symptoms related to TMJ disorder can be treated using simple home remedies. Some home remedies that can provide relief include gently self-stretching your jaws and neck muscles, avoiding chewing gum, eating soft foods, using over-the-counter pain medication, and exercising relaxation techniques to reduce stress. 

If the TMJ disorder is severe, you may have to seek medical options. Common medical treatments for TMJ disorder include acupuncture, physical therapy, Botox (to relax the jaw muscles), and dental splints. 

To learn more about TMJ or lockjaw, contact Robert A. Rees, DDS, at our office in La Jolla, California. You can call us at (858) 454-6181 to book an appointment today.

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