Realizing more about the facial structure is an important step in helping someone spot TMJ symptoms easier. TMJ syndrome, or temporomandibular joint syndrome, is a sensation of discomfort or pain in the joint connecting our lower jaw to our skull. In this area can be found several muscles and nerves, mostly involved in either chewing, facial expression or facial sensation. Therefore, problems involving this area of the head will affect those basic functions and the symptoms of this common disorder may appear in one of several locations.
The common problems that result in TMJ symptoms are trauma and arthritis. Trauma may be classified as internal or external. Internal trauma results from the teeth, whether from the constant biting of things such as a chewing gum or from constant teeth grinding, such as the habit of some people. In the case of external trauma, they usually originate from accidental impact or intentional blows to the jaw, such as from a punch. All these forms of trauma result in spasm of the jaw muscles, or dislocation of the joint itself, leading to TMJ syndrome.
In the case of arthritis, TMJ symptoms may arise from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis originates from mechanical and biological factors, while rheumatoid arthritis originates from an autoimmune disease. Both of these types however, results in the inflammation of the TMJ and subsequent destruction of its cartilage.
These events from trauma and arthritis should enable us to better understand the symptoms of TMJ, the most distressing among them being pain. The constant inflammation or trauma predisposes a person to experience this as a chronic pain, radiating from the face down to the neck or shoulders, and made worse every time he or she talks, yawns or chews. The inflammation also causes swelling of the affected joint, and a phenomenon called referred pain, where a person feels a pain coming from a different area of the head (such as the ear or the skull), that is not directly connected to the involved area.
Constant trauma or inflammation may also give rise to weakness of the joint, making it prone to dislocation. This can be felt as clicking, grating sensation, or a popping in the jaw when chewing . Sometimes, this can worsen to the point of the jaw being locked wide open, or even locked shut (lockjaw).
When all or some of these symptoms begin to happen, a person should always consider the possibility that they are, in fact, TMJ symptoms. A consultation with a qualified dentist or doctor should then follow, and close monitoring must be done to prevent complications.