Jaw problems cause pain and discomfort for millions of people every year. Jaw problems are usually caused by trauma or disease of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint is positioned directly in front of the ear and consists of a sliding ball and socket with a disk in between. It is a joint that is frequently used. In order to resolve a jaw problem, it is important to be aware of symptoms that may be occurring so that proper treatment can be sought.
Headaches, such as migraine or tension, can also be a symptom of jaw problems. Many people who have suffered with these types of headaches find relief when they have the TMJ treated, sometimes through surgical intervention. Some people may have headaches that are disabling and cause them to have a reduced quality of life. These people can usually pinpoint headaches being caused by excessive chewing (such as chewing gum).
A person with jaw problems may also have a popping in their jaw. This is caused when the TMJ becomes weakened and the ball and socket rub against one another. This popping can occur when the person is eating, yawning or even talking. This popping may become worse when you do repetitive motions or grit your teeth. The stress and strain on an already weakened joint can cause more serious jaw problems. As this condition worsens it may result in the joint locking up.
In some cases the jaw's joint will become locked. The Dental Health Directory reports that lock jaw (Trismus) can be full or partial and is caused when the disk in the center of the TMJ becomes dislodged and makes the jaw immobile. This can be quite painful and cause a lot of problems for someone who is trying to eat or talk. The Mayo Clinic also reports that this problem may make it very difficult for a person to open or close their mouth. The joint may lock up a small number of times or it can be something that occurs frequently.
Defects in the TMJ often cause ear problems. Pain and tenderness can be found in and around the ear (which also contains the TMJ). They may also have some difficulty hearing or may even have problems with popping in the ear. According to Dr. Barry C. Cooper, DDS, the sound may seem distorted or muffled or the ear may even feel clogged. In severe cases, some people have nausea or vertigo from this problem.
Some people who have jaw problems also have muscle fatigue in the jaw and facial muscles. This fatigue is caused when an already weak TMJ is overused or has stress applied (such as having to keep jaw open for extended period of time). A person may report that their facial muscles feel tired or sore. The facial pain will occur around the jaw, ears or on only one side of the face. The pain itself can be dull or sharp and may be a frequent occurrence.
The nerve that runs through the TMJ also intermingles in the muscles in the back of the neck. Because of this, jaw problems can also cause neck problems. Neck issues such as stiffness, aching and pain often occur. In more serious situations, a person may experience numbness, tingling, nausea, vomiting and even vision problems. In this situation, prompt medical treatment is needed.