TMJ syndrome refers to a disorder of the temporomandibular joint that connects the jaw to the rest of the skull. When this joint becomes irritated, inflamed, or otherwise compromised, the pain can become unbearable in a short period of time. This is due to the central location of the temporomandibular joint, which allows the discomfort to spread beyond the jaw itself and into the mouth and teeth, ears, eyes, neck, shoulders and head. Additionally, since TMJ disorder is easily aggravated by so many normal daily tasks like eating, talking and yawning, it can be difficult to avoid for even a moment. For this reason, anyone who suffers from TMJ syndrome should seek treatment from an experienced TMJ specialist immediately. Failure to do so could have serious lifelong consequences.
The dangers associated with untreated TMJ disorder
To begin, the pain itself, which can quickly escalate from annoying to crippling, must be considered. Most sufferers will attempt to alleviate their chronic TMJ pain on their own, through self-medication. Over time, popping a few pain relievers here and there to ease the symptoms can turn into a full-blown addiction. Many TMJ sufferers fall prey to alcoholism and drug abuse if left untreated by a medical professional. This constant pain, combined with the tendency of some people with TMJ to grind their teeth in their sleep, can lead to a pattern of sleep disturbance and insomnia as well. TMJ symptoms may also contribute to depression, which can in turn negatively impact job performance, personal relationships and general quality of life. No one should have to suffer in silence, particularly since TMJ can be treated permanently through safe, non-surgical means.
Another consequence of not seeking treatment for your TMJ negatively affects your dental health. Many TMJ patients show signs of premature wear and tear on the teeth, mainly from grinding the teeth and from the tendency of sufferers to favor one side of the jaw over the other. This can lead to permanent dental issues that are expensive to repair. An off-center jaw that leads to favoring one side while chewing can also create swelling on one side of the face, and unsymmetrical muscle growth over time. This can give the patient a lopsided appearance that is nearly impossible to reverse. In addition, the pain and discomfort of chewing and eating that stems from TMJ syndrome can lead to malnourishment or even eating disorders, as patients attempt to avoid the problem by eating only soft foods, liquids, or not eating altogether.
TMJ can lead to Tinnitus and jaw problems
Since the joint in question is located directly underneath the ears, many TMJ sufferers contend with pain in their ears. Eventually, TMJ disorder can lead to tinnitus or even permanently compromised hearing. Inner ear problems can also produce difficulties with balance and recurring dizziness. Similarly, vision can be compromised by untreated TMJ symptoms.
TMJ can also lead to serious jaw problems. For instance, the jaw may become permanently “stuck” open, requiring a trip to the emergency room to forcibly close the mouth. In addition, the breakdown of the cartilage in the jaw over time not only leads to pain and unpleasant grinding sounds – it can also result in the dislocation of the jaw. Don’t wait for your TMJ to escalate – contact a TMJ specialist today for the treatment you need.