Your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, are the joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull, and are the most used joints in your entire body. To continue operating properly with minimal impact on your teeth and jaw, your smile should be evenly balanced. This allows your jaw to glide smoothly in its joints as you bite, chew, speak, and yawn. When your smile is imbalanced, either from crooked teeth, a malformed jawbone, or a dental injury, then your jaw’s smooth operation can be disturbed. As your TMJ’s and the muscles around them strain to maintain balance, the strain can damage them, leading to a wide range of possible symptoms that can be traced back to TMJ disorder—including chronic jaw pain.
The Challenges of Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
Pain is a signal received and transmitted to your brain through the nervous system. Eighty percent of the sensory input to your brain comes from your cranial nerves (the other twenty from your spinal column). The trigeminal nerve, which innervates your jaw, is the largest of twelve sets of cranial nerves. Aside from your jaw, its three branches also innervate your teeth, eardrum, and sinuses, and help control the blood flow to much of your anterior brain.
In the midst of TMJ disorder, inflammation can disturb the trigeminal nerve. The resulting discomfort can be transferred along the nerve, manifesting as chronic headaches, earaches, facial pain, and/or pain in your neck, shoulders, and back. Because of its diverse range of symptoms, many patients can endure their TMJ-related discomfort for years without successful treatment before discovering that the problem lies with a dental issue.
Is There Relief from TMJ Disorder?
An imbalanced jaw and the formation of TMJ disorder can result from a number of different sources. If your teeth are crooked, then the improper pressure distribution of your bite can strain your jaw’s components. If your jaw is malformed and uneven, then its joints and muscles will have to work harder to keep your mouth straight as it moves, also straining your jaw’s components. Typically, finding relief from TMJ disorder requires treating its underlying cause, and in severe cases, that may require reconstructive jaw surgery to restore your bite’s equilibrium.
Learn More About Jaw Pain and TMJ Disorder
If you suffer from chronic craniofacial aches and pains and suspect the presence of TMJ disorder, then call Lake Forest Dental Arts in Lake Forest, IL, today at 847-234-0517. We also proudly serve residents of Chicago and all surrounding communities.