Answering this question is challenging even for some doctors and dentists, unless they have the extensive training required to recognize the signs and symptoms. Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is a condition affecting the alignment of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) that afflicts 83 million Americans over the age of 12. TMD is often called the “great imposter” because many symptoms related to the disorder are also similar to other diseases and disorders. There are dozens of surprising symptoms—many you might not think of as related to TMD—yet any, or all, can be indications of TMD.
Typical Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction:
• Pain behind the eyes
• Shooting pain up the back of the head
• Ear pain or earache
• Clogged, “itchy,” or stuffy ears
• Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
• Decreased hearing
• Pain in the cheek muscles
• Uncontrollable jaw and/or tongue movement, lips twitching
• Neck pain and/or shoulder pain
• Swallowing difficulties, feeling of foreign body constantly in throat
• Tired and sore muscles
• Numbness in the arm, hand and fingers
• Hair or scalp painful to the touch
• Vertigo or dizziness
If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms related to Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) your next step is to see your dentist to determine if any signs of the disorder are present. Signs are different from symptoms. Remember, symptoms are the things that you feel or experience that are bothersome, painful or debilitating in your life. Signs are things that the doctor or someone else can see, feel or hear relating to the condition.
Eight Common Signs of TMJ Dysfunction:
• Deviation of the lower jaw to one side or the other or in an “S” curve on wide opening or closing of the mouth.
• TMJ joint sounds (popping or clicking) on opening and closing the mouth.
• Limited ability to open the mouth wide. The average wide opening of the mouth in an adult human is 45mm.
• Reduced vertical dimension of the jaws. The proper vertical dimension for adults is 18mm +/- 2mm from the gum line of the upper front teeth to the gum line of the lower front teeth when biting together on the back teeth.
• Occlusal wear. This means visible wearing down of the biting surfaces of the teeth either front, back or both.
• Chronic biting of the cheeks and/or sides of the tongue.
• Abfraction lesions. These are notches that often occur at the gum line of teeth that become sensitive to the touch. These notches are in the root surfaces of teeth.
• Mandibular Tori. These are boney protrusions usually found along the tongue side of the lower jaw.
Could you be pain-free forever?
If you have determined that you have any of the listed symptoms and signs related to Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), you are not alone. Over a third of all American adults have TMD to some degree. At least one sign and some of the symptoms must be present in order to be properly diagnosed and treated for TMD.