Your Life Before TMJ Treatment
If you’ve been living with untreated TMJ disorder for some time, you’ll find these things familiar as you experience them daily. For those who have more recently acquired the disorder, you may be experiencing some, but it’s nothing to trifle with. Catch your symptoms early and treat your TMJ before they worsen.
Jaw and Facial Pain
Jaw and facial pain are fairly obvious and common TMJ symptoms. You feel pain in your jaw because the muscles and joints are inflamed from misalignment and/or grinding and clenching your teeth. While your jaw is strong, it’s not strong enough to be used all the time, and just like other muscles and joints, it can become strained.
But why do you feel pain in other parts of your face and not just your jaw? This is called referred pain, and it can give you headaches too. You feel pain in the tissues around the site of injury.
Jaw and facial pain significantly impacts your ability to speak, eat, yawn, and laugh.
Ear Pain, Ringing, and Congestion
Ear symptoms can be challenging to diagnose because they don’t seem related to your jaw. But your jaw joints sit right below your ears, and in ancient humans, the inner ear bones were actually part of the jaw. The swelling of your jaw joint can pull at your inner ear and cause pain. Likewise, the inflamed jaw joint can pull on your eardrum, causing it to become unstable and ear ringing. Most people have heard the wives’ tale, “Your ears ring when someone is talking about you,” but in reality, ear ringing is a sign of hearing loss. Hearing loss is part of aging, but your hearing loss is accelerated when you have TMJ.
Have you ever felt like your ears are full of gunk? This happens when the tubes between your middle ear and the back of your nose become blocked. Inflammation from your jaw joint can travel and block these tubes, causing the fullness you feel.
If these ear symptoms are minor, they may not bother you too much, but your ear pain will cause you to miss events you’d typically enjoy attending over time.
Headaches and Migraines
Do you have chronic headaches or migraines? Headaches and migraines are hard to diagnose because they’re a symptom of many illnesses, and migraines can be an illness on their own. In the case of TMJ disorder, headaches and migraines are called ‘secondary’ because they’re a symptom of a larger issue.
TMJ headaches can be referred pain headaches or tension headaches. In either case, the blood vessels in your head swell and cause pain.
Migraines are a different story. They are a neurological phenomenon and are still mysterious to researchers and doctors. We know TMJ can cause migraine headaches, and there are two main theories. First, your trigeminal nerve (thought to be responsible for migraines) runs through your jaw joint. When your joint is swelled and inflamed, it pushes on your nerve and causes a migraine. Second, the same nerve is responsible for jaw stimulation and feeling in your head and face. The trigeminal nerve could become overwhelmed and jammed with all the messages to your brain and cause a migraine.
Like the other pain items on this list, headaches and migraines impact your ability to participate socially and professionally and take care of your responsibilities at home. With a migraine, you’re held up in your room waiting for it to pass, which can take hours to days.
Vertigo or Dizziness
Feeling dizzy or having vertigo can significantly impact your ability to do anything. When you feel dizzy, you won’t want to try new activities or even participate in the activities you love.
The tubes connecting your middle ear to the back of your nose help you balance. When they’re blocked from TMJ, you feel dizzy and can develop vertigo.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are a result of long-term, untreated TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder affects your life so much that you can no longer enjoy doing the things you used to do, feel well enough to attend social events, and miss work when you have chronic headaches and migraines. Your inability to participate in the human experience can result in depression, and you’ll feel anxious about the things you’re missing and the pain you feel.