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What Is TMJ?

The term TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint. Your temporomandibular joints are your jaw joints located in front of your ears on either side of your face. So, asking the question, “What is TMJ?” is like asking, “What is knee?” but the term has become so familiar that even healthcare providers use it instead of clinical terms such as temporomandibular joint disorder and TMD.  

When they function normally, your TMJs enable you to open and close your mouth in a pain-free, fluid motion and allow you to chew, talk, and yawn comfortably. Just like all the other joint systems in your body, your jaw joints are moved by muscles and stabilized by ligaments. And, like any other joint, pain and stiffness can occur when there are problems in their muscles and ligaments.

TMJ Is An Orthopedic Problem

A TMJ problem is orthopedic in nature. It can involve your jaw muscles, tendons, ligaments, and even your jaw joints themselves. Under the broad heading of what are TMJ disorders, diagnoses can include the orthopedic categories you’re probably already familiar with:

  • Tendonitis
  • Muscle strains, soreness, spasm, tightness, or inflammation
  • Ligament sprains & tears
  • Joint Instability
  • Swollen, joints, inflamed joints, or both
  • Arthritis 

Viewed this way, it should not be surprising that TMJ disorders are accompanied by jaw and face pain, limited jaw motion (difficulty opening your mouth), and joint noises. 

Do You Have Any Of These Common TMD/TMJ  Symptoms?

  • Pain, soreness, or tightness in your jaw muscles
  • Pain directly in front of the ear over your jaw joints
  • Jaw pain when you eat or whenever you move your jaw
  • Limited jaw motion, often called lockjaw
  • A feeling that your jaw is out of whack or that your bite has changed
  • Clicking, popping, or gravelly sounds coming from your jaw joints
  • Sore teeth when you wake up in the morning
  • Headaches in your temples

Are you experiencing any of these less common symptoms? 

  • Unexplained ear pain
  • Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Clogged ears or a feeling of pressure
  • Persistent neck pain, particularly when you get up in the morning
  • Tooth pain that is hard to diagnose or doesn’t respond to treatment
  • Altered sensations in your face and jaw

If you have any combination of the above symptoms, we know what you’re going through. If you’ve been struggling to find answers and solutions, we invite you to make an appointment at one of our five convenient offices in the New York City metro area. The team at New York TMJ & Orofacial Pain is led by board-certified Orofacial Pain specialists, some of the few in the region.

We have been dedicated to helping people with TMJ problems get better for over three decades. To make an appointment, call 212-265-0110 or  click here  and we’ll get right back to you. 

What Is TMJ? – The Causes

Most TMJ symptoms are the result of tired, tight, injured, or sore jaw muscles, inflamed tendons, or compromised ligaments, cartilage, and joint structures, all of which define a type of orthopedic injury. If you’ve ever had an injury from overdoing it in sports or fitness, you can think of your TMJ symptoms as a similar orthopedic problem. While TMJ can be scary, most patients feel much better when they understand that their symptoms are orthopedic in nature.

The 6 Most Common Causes Of TMJ:

  1. A single identifiable trauma such as an accident
  2. Ongoing micro-traumas such as bruxism and jaw over-use behaviors 
  3. Underlying medical conditions such as arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, or sleep apnea
  4. Life’s stressors, tension, and anxiety
  5. Persistent neck problems 
  6. A bad bite and/or a jaw misalignment

If you suffer from TMJ symptoms and cannot identify a single traumatic event that could have cased them, it is likely due to one or more of the above risk factors and jaw over-use behaviors. Millions of people around the world do over-use their jaws but don’t end up with TMJ – millions more suffer from TMJ pain and symptoms as a result:

Risk Factors That Can Cause TMJ

  • Clenching or grinding your teeth during the day
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth while asleep
  • Keeping your teeth in contact during the day
  • Chewing gum
  • Biting your nails or cuticles
  • Biting on pens, straws, or other plastic items
  • Biting your lips or cheeks
  • Chewing ice
  • Frequent and excessive yawning
  • Holding objects between your teeth
  • Leaning your chin into your hands

At New York TMJ and Orofacial Pain, we spend the time to uncover the risk factors that lead to TMJ problems and have many ways to help you reduce or eliminate them, whether you have moderate or severe TMJ. Many patients come to us after trying everything and are still suffering; some have even been told their symptoms are “all in their heads”. Our philosophy of care, on the other hand, combines empathy and compassion with experience and expertise. 

Make an appointment for a consultation at one of our five convenient offices in Manhattan, White Plains, Long Island and Springfield, NJ by calling 212-265-0110 or click here , and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.