How do I know if I have TMJ?

Most of the time when I eat my jaw cracks/pops and hurts. Today I opened my mouth and it felt like it got stuck. I can only fit 2 fingers in my mouth and it pops like out of place. So do I have tmj?

Thanks, Alex in Texas

Dear Alex,

It sounds like you may be suffering from Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) and possibly some lock jaw. This type of disorder is usually brought on by stress as to where one grinds or clenches their teeth while sleeping, however one can also do it while awake. Grinding and clenching can cause popping and clicking as well as make ones teeth hurt, causing gum recession over time, as well as bone loss around the teeth. Many times people experience TMD problems due to the fact that their teeth are not properly aligned in the proper position, therefore orthodontics are needed at times to correct jaw joint issues. If your teeth are in their proper alignment or close to it, your dentist will probably recommend a night guard for you to wear at night while you sleep to prevent you from grinding or clenching. This will alleviate your symptoms of popping and cracking as well as prevent you from having any problems with tooth pain or bone loss.

Signs one is grinding or clenching:

  • Headaches in the morning
  • Cheeks feel sore
  • Pain in jaw joints
  • Teeth pain
  • Tooth wear
  • Ab fraction Lesions (this is when the enamel is popping off on the side of the tooth next to the gum line and causes tooth sensitivity

To help decrease the pain as well as lock jaw, place heat and ice packs on your jaw joints several times throughout the day for 10 minutes at a time. This will help with the swelling around your joints. Lock jaw can last several weeks. We recommend you visit your dentist for an evaluation as to whether or not you indeed are having Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction.

This post is sponsored by Phoenix TMJ expert Dr. Arthur Chal.

Related link: How to deal with TMJ pain

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