For being such a common disorder (by some estimates, over 10 million Americans suffer from the disorder) TMJ is shockingly misunderstood by the average person. To people who suffer from the symptoms of TMJ day in and day out, it can be frustrating to try and explain the disorder and its effects to the people around them.
Whether you’re someone with TMJ just looking for someone who understands, or you know someone with TMJ and want to better comprehend their daily struggles, here are three things that people with TMJ wish others knew.
It’s Not Just Jaw Pain
Although jaw pain is certainly a major part of TMJ for many people, the disorder is accompanied by plenty of other unpleasant symptoms. Even on days when the jaw pain isn’t that bad, there is other pain that TMJ sufferers deal with.
For example, the pressure that TMJ causes in the jaw can extend into the rest of the body and cause everything from tension headaches and migraines to pain in the face, shoulders, and even back. It may seem shocking that a problem in the jaw could create pain in the entire upper half of the body, but for many TMJ patients, that pain is the reality of life.
TMJ can also come with ear pain, due to the location of the jaw joint directly underneath the complex systems of the ear. TMJ symptoms can even extend as far as the fingers, causing numbness or tingling.
It Affects Quality of Life
Even when TMJ isn’t causing pain, it still impacts quality of life. Symptoms like ringing in the ears can cause frustration, irritability, and lost sleep. And that same pressure on the inner ear that can cause tinnitus can also create feelings of vertigo or dizziness, making it difficult to participate in athletics or even simply walk or stand when the vertigo is particularly bad.
The tension and tightness in the jaw muscles caused by TMJ can make it difficult to speak, impairing TMJ sufferers both in their personal lives and in the workplace. And since certain foods can be triggers for TMJ pain or symptoms, the disorder can even prevent people from getting adequate nutrition.
Treatment Can Be a Puzzle
Despite how common TMJ is, treatment for it can still be hit-or-miss. Many TMJ sufferers are prescribed painkillers that either have unpleasant side effects, or stop working after a period of time. This is such a common issue that the CDC has even issued statements cautioning doctors against turning to opioids first.
Misdiagnosis can lead to people with TMJ spending years of their life seeking treatment for symptoms without identifying the cause. Whether they’re seeking treatment for migraines, inner ear problems, or any of TMJ’s other miscellaneous symptoms, if doctors can’t identify TMJ as the cause, those treatments will be ineffective.
TMJ is more than just jaw pain, and even after diagnosis, it can be a lifelong challenge to treat and manage. That’s why it’s so important to work with an experienced TMJ dentist who can determine the best drug-free treatments for your needs. Call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry online to schedule an appointment right here in Columbia, South Carolina.