When your jaw joints, called your temporomandibular joints, which are located on either side of your head, don’t work like they should, they can cause discomfort and unusual noises such as clicking or grinding when moving the jaw.
TMJ disorders can cause an array of symptoms in the body, from jaw pain to headaches to even ear pain. If you have TMJ, you know the discomfort it can cause and how it can impact your daily life. But what happens if you leave TMJ untreated?
Your jaw joints are able to work in part because of cartilage, which keeps the joint flexible and helps it move properly. In people who experience TMJ disorders, cartilage degeneration in the form of arthritis is common. Ignoring arthritis or TMJ symptoms can cause cartilage to deteriorate over time, which can lead to worsening of symptoms. Fortunately, there are many non-invasive treatment options available for people who have both arthritis and TMJ, including physical therapy, medications, and even acupuncture .
If you have TMJ, you may also have tinnitus, which is the medical term for ringing in the ears. This condition is more likely to affect women with TMJ disorders, and can also exist with other symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and neck pain. Leaving TMJ untreated can lead to worsening tinnitus, which can impact your quality of life .
Tooth Enamel Damage
TMJ disorders have been linked to teeth grinding, or bruxism, although experts are still learning about the relationship between these two conditions. Grinding your teeth can put extra stress on your temporomandibular joints, but on the other hand, if you have TMJ, you may be more at risk for teeth grinding. Leaving TMJ untreated can lead to worsening bruxism, which can cause tooth sensitivity, inflamed gum tissue, and eventually, tooth loss .
People who live with TMJ typically experience chronic discomfort, whether in the form of headaches, jaw aches, or ear pain. Chronic pain can get worse over time when TMJ isn’t treated, which can make the condition itself worse . Inflammation and muscle tension are two of the most common causes of this discomfort in patients with TMJ.
Some people with TMJ disorders have difficulty chewing or pain when chewing . Some people can even experience lockjaw, in which the jaw gets stuck in a certain position. Over time, your chewing discomfort can increase, as can your risk for lockjaw with untreated TMJ.
Are You Experiencing TMJ Symptoms?
If you’re experiencing TMJ symptoms, including jaw discomfort, inability to open your mouth all the way, or hearing clicking or popping noises when moving your jaw, it’s time to follow up with your dentist. There are treatment options for TMJ, many of them are minimally invasive and can help improve your comfort and quality of life!