Do I Have TMJ Disorder?
It’s normal to feel your jaw pop every once in awhile, even to hear a click or two in your ear, or feel some discomfort in your head, neck, or shoulders after a long day. However, severe and constant facial pain, stiff and clicking jaw movements, earaches, chronic migraines, pain biting or chewing, constant sore muscles in your upper body, or extremely sensitive teeth that seem to have an off bite is not normal, and no one should have to live with these uncomfortable and inhibiting conditions. Does this lifestyle sound familiar? If so, then you might be one of the many unsuspecting TMJ sufferers, and should consider the help of Charlotte area TMJ expert, Dr. Larson.
TMJ disorders are often progressive and can eventually cause extreme and persistent pain. Although TMJ is a disorder in the jaw, the symptoms of the disorder often carry into many other parts of the face, upper body, and even hands and fingertips. TMJ symptoms often lead professionals to misdiagnose patients, as these symptoms can often imitate those of other disorders in their range and complexity. Don’t let yourself be fooled! Charlotte area TMJ expert Dr. Larson has years of hands on experience and training in diagnosing and treating TMJ, and can quickly assess your condition(s) and design a plan to reduce or eliminate years of discomfort and jaw and facial pain dysfunction.
TMJ Disorder Symptoms
We’ve all been there before—a nagging, throbbing headache, yet again. And, while we have all experienced a headache at some point in our lives, it doesn’t mean you need to just sit back and accept the pain. While you already know what a headache is and how it feels, let’s take a closer look at headache signs and symptoms:
Pain in the eyes when looking into lights
Tenderness of the scalp
Tightness sensation in the head
Pain on one side or both sides of your head
Pain that feels like a throbbing or pulsing sensation
Sensitivity to sound
Jaw & Facial Pain
Similar to headaches, the exact cause of facial pain appears to be unknown. However, there are some working theories that might help to explain the symptoms of facial pain. One underlying cause appears to be muscle injury or repetitive strain, which activate facial trigger points. Another cause might also be psychological stressors and physical strain because both can increase muscle tension along fibers referred to as the taut band, which is a hardened ropelike stretch of muscle fibers in which triggers are present. Lastly, facial pain might originate from postural stressors, such as poor body posture while sitting at a desk, which is held for prolonged periods of time.
When a trigger point within the muscle is activated, the muscle fibers contract, which results in a sensation from trigger point activation that may take the form of referred pain, or pain in an area other than the point of origin. For example, a trigger in the trapezius muscle, which helps raise the shoulder, can shoot pain up the shoulder to the neck and head, and can be experienced as a headache.
Tinnitus (Ringing In Your Ears)
The inner ear contains a small structure known as the labyrinth that is a crucial part of the body’s balance, or vestibular, system. The vestibular system also includes the eyes, nerves, bones, and joints. The labyrinth contains fluid that moves around as you move, helping to send signals to the brain about balance and the body’s position. When any part of the vestibular system is disrupted, including the labyrinth, the brain receives mixed signals that can cause a feeling of dizziness or vertigo.
It so happens that the labyrinth is located in your temporal bone in your head – and your TMJ attaches to the skull at the temporal bone as well. So, when misalignment or inflammation from TMD occurs, the fluid in the labyrinth can be disrupted, and its important signals become unclear.
Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing in the ears, but some people also hear it as a roaring, clicking, hissing or buzzing. It may be soft or loud, and it might affect both of your ears or only one. For some people, it’s a minor annoyance. For others, it can interfere with sleep and grow to be a source of mental and emotional anguish.
Those who suffer from Tinnitus have also been known to say the noise sounds like hissing, roaring, buzzing or clicking. The pain may be worsened or relieved by opening the jaw. The sounds can be soft or incredibly loud and the case can range from mild to severe. The more severe cases have been known to keep people up at night and cause a significant deal of frustration. These noises can be heard in either both ears or just one; it depends on the case. There is no set length for those who suffer from Tinnitus. The noises can last months, years or a lifetime. However, Tinnitus has been known to be a common side effect from those who suffer from TMJ Disorder (TMJ/TMD), or in long form: Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction.
How TMJ and Tinnitus Are Connected
Tinnitus has been known to be a symptom of TMJ in many cases. These two are commonly experienced by the same individuals. The eardrum is located very close to the temporomandibular joint, which is the main joint at issue in cases of TMD. If the temporomandibular joint becomes inflamed, it can affect the eardrum. The inflammation of the joint can affect the stabilization of the eardrum, which can cause the pain and noise associated with Tinnitus.
Vertigo & Dizziness
TMJ or TMD is often called “the great impostor” because it can cause many symptoms that seem completely unrelated to your bite, such as vertigo. Vertigo is when you feel dizzy or off balance because the entire world seems to be moving when it’s not. A poorly aligned jaw can put pressure on the balance organs in your inner ear, reducing their ability to function and causing vertigo or dizziness.
How TMJ Causes Dizziness and Vertigo
The vestibular system of your inner ear is located in your temporal bone, which is also where your jaw bone attaches to the skull. When your jaw is out of balance, it can put excessive force on this bone and lead to a misalignment of the vestibular system. This will cause it to give incorrect, conflicting signals to the brain about your balance, leading to dizziness or feelings of vertigo.
If you are suffering from vertigo there may be an underlying cause that isn’t so obvious. The health of your jaw joint (TMJ) and your bite (occlusion). When issues arise with either of these two things it can result in a temporomandibular joint disorder or dysfunction. Research has shown that there may be a correlation between TMJ and Vertigo which helps in resolving some cases by treating your misaligned bite and reducing tension in the connected jaw muscles.
Successful TMJ Treatment for Dizziness and Vertigo
Meniere’s disease is a known ear condition named for the French physician Prosper Meniere, who discovered it in 1861. Meniere’s disease affects the functioning of the inner ear, causing symptoms commonly seen in TMJ as well: dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, stuffiness, or ear pain. If a person is diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, they are often told there is no cure to the condition.
However, TMJ treatment can resolve these symptoms and has been known to cure several cases diagnosed as Meniere’s disease. This shows how important it is to get a second opinion when you’ve been told you have a chronic, incurable condition, such as Meniere’s disease.
Treating your TMJ Disorder
TMJ is a disorder that progresses over time, and may affect each and every patient differently. TMJ is, consequently, a disorder difficult to diagnose, and especially difficult to recognize without the help of Charlotte area TMJ specialist Dr. Larson.
If you suffer from persistent jaw pain, regular and uncomfortable clicking and popping in your jaw and ear, chronic head, neck, or shoulder pain, vertigo, an uneven bite, recurring “lock jaw,” or any combination of these uncomfortable symptoms, it’s time to seek the help of Dr. Larson. Because TMJ often disguises itself through its complex and controversial symptoms, it’s important to trust a TMJ specialist with years of experience for your diagnosis and treatment.
If left untreated, TMJ can severely affect muscles, nerves and blood vessels running through your jaw. In order to correct TMJ before it becomes a problem that controls your life, TMJ specialist Dr. Larson will carefully review your medical history to create a customized treatment plan to reduce or eliminate your pain. Don’t live with the discomfort of TMJ! Contact Dr. Larson to improve your quality of life in as little as one visit.