TMJ is a disorder of the jaw joint and nearby structures. The ball, socket and cushioning disc become damaged with over use for a variety of reasons such as an irregular bite structure, a missing tooth or worn down teeth. The pain can radiate into facial muscles, mouth functioning problems such as opening and closing, chewing problems and even vocal problems. It should be noted that TMJ means “Temporomandibular Joint” so if you say you have TMJ you are only saying that you possess a Temporomandibular Joint. Usually TMJ is called TMJ Disorder to make the illness obvious.
General TMJ Symptoms
General TMJ Disorder symptoms include neck, shoulder, ear, mouth, teeth and gum, head, facial, eye and throat pain. Some general symptoms include bloodshot eyes, blurry vision, eye pain, sensitivity to light, watery eyes, migraines or sinus problems, sensitive teeth, grinding of the teeth, clenching of the teeth, pain in the face, cheek and mouth, limited mouth opening ability, jaw pain, jaw popping noises, swallowing problems, throat pain and problems and laryngitis.
Tight Throat and Jaw
Tightness in the throat and jaw mainly stem from overuse. Eating each day, as well as speech, puts the jaw, muscles and throat into use, and after a long period, pain may begin to build up in the region. Misalignment of the jaw, a missing tooth, having an overbite or teeth that do not align causes serious jaw pain while eating and speaking. The pain in the jaw and surrounding areas is often chronic and even at rest, the person suffers pain. Pain is also caused by trying to open the mouth too widely. Additionally, bruxism, or grinding of the teeth, during sleep or when stressed or angry grinds down the teeth and causes them to misalign, causing further jaw pain.
Voice fluctuations, like Laryngitis especially, are caused by swollen vocal cords present with TMJ Disorder. The larynx is made of four cartilages: the thyroid, the cricold, the arytenoid and the epiglottis. The larynx connects to the hyoid bone in the throat between the thyroid cartilage and the tongue. The hyoid connects to the mandible or lower jaw muscles. Pressure is exerted on the mandible muscles. The mandible and its muscles have a strong regulation over the use of the larynx. Since the mandible is disconnected or loose during TMJ Disorder, the vocal cords are restricted and for some people speech may be difficult.
Tongue and Inner Throat Pain
The misalignment of the joints also disrupts ear structures, by putting pressure on the petrotympanic fissure and tympanic bone. The tympanic bone keeps the jaw joint separated from the ear canal. The mandibular malleolar ligament connects to the malleous, which attaches to the meniscus and the capsular ligament of the TMJ. The capsular ligament is a sac surrounding the joint that travels through the fissure. The anterior tympanic artery, which supplies oxygenated blood to the ear drum and surrounding areas, travels through the fissure. The chorda tympani nerve also goes through the fissure. The chorda tympani nerve then sends a pain sensation to the tongue causing pain again from the misalignment.
Treatment of TMJ Disorder varies doctor to doctor. Some have you apply heat and cold sensations to your jaw to restore function. Some advocate surgery. Some will sell you “mouth guards” to wear to keep the teeth lined up properly. Truthfully there is no cure for TMJ Disorder, but you may be able to find some relief by visiting your doctor for options.