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What do chronic headaches, ear pain, and a constant buzzing sound have in common? They are all symptoms of a jaw condition known as temperomandibular joint disorder. This is commonly abbreviated as TMJ.

Causes of TMJ

This condition is usually the result of the upper and lower jaw not meeting properly. Misalignment can be caused by a number of different problems. One common cause of TMJ is the grinding of teeth. This places stress on the cartilage that cushions the jaw. Over time the loss of cartilage can result in misalignment of the jaw. Any type of misalignment of the bite can also result in TMJ. This cause can be related to improper outgrowth of the adult teeth in childhood, or it can be the result of trauma such as a broken jaw. In either case, the jaw is permanently misaligned and can require correction.

Symptoms of TMJ

TMJ manifests itself with a number of symptoms. These can include headache, ear aches, unusual noises in the jaw like popping and clicking, dizziness, tinnitus, and back pain. General practitioners often misdiagnose many of these symptoms as ear infections or sinus attacks. Typically, an orthodontist is able to properly diagnose and treat this disorder. If TMJ is a suspected cause of the aforementioned symptoms, then a doctor can use x-ray imaging to make a formal diagnosis. Magnetic resonance imaging can also be used to look at the soft tissues within the jaw.

Treatment Options

What kinds of therapeutic options are available to patients with TMJ? If the problem is not especially severe, then simple prescriptions like jaw rest and medication can be effective treatments. Drugs used to treat TMJ are typically anti-inflammatory compounds like naproxen and aspirin. Muscle relaxants can also be prescribed in more severe cases. Sometimes, TMJ is not reversible by simple therapy options. This is especially true if a misaligned bite is the primary cause of the disorder. In these cases, radical correction of the bite is the best treatment option. Braces can be used to realign teeth. Sometimes surgery can be required in the most extreme cases.

TMJ is a common cause of a number of everyday maladies. Because its symptoms are common to many different ailments, general doctors may not suspect jaw alignment problems to be the culprit. This is especially true when the pain is not directly associated with the jaw itself. Those who are experiencing these symptoms may want to consider visiting an orthodontist to learn more about TMJ and how to treat it.

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Peter Wendt is a writer from Texas. He is very particular about his oral hygiene because he once had a serious case of TMJ. If you live in Texas, he recommends this TMJ Houston orthodontist.