TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is normally diagnosed by its symptoms. People experience headaches, jaw pain, ear problems, and more. But just because you haven’t noticed any symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have TMJ. Many people experience asymptomatic TMJ, TMJ without symptoms, which can be harder to detect, but may be just as serious. In fact, perhaps a third of individuals have TMJ without related symptoms.
What Is Asymptomatic TMJ?
In asymptomatic TMJ, you have many of the underlying conditions of TMJ, such as disc displacement, disc damage, and maybe even bone damage, but you don’t have any of the symptoms we normally associate with TMJ — not even the popping jaw joint that often indicates a displaced disc.
What’s important to remember about asymptomatic TMJ is that the absence of symptoms doesn’t mean it’s not serious. Whenever the disc is displaced and experiencing damage, postponing treatment can limit your TMJ treatment options and make it more likely that you will have a poor outcome from treatment.
Risk Factors for Asymptomatic TMJ
Most people seek treatment for TMJ because the symptoms are disruptive or even debilitating. So if you don’t have symptoms, how do you know that you should be evaluated for TMJ?
If you have the following risk factors, you should talk to your doctor or a neuromuscular dentist about your TMJ risk:
- Jaw trauma
- Whiplash due to a car accident
- Rheumatoid or osteoarthritis
- Malocclusion: teeth that don’t fit together comfortably
Pay attention to some of the visible changes related to TMJ. If the appearance of your jaw is noticeably different, TMJ may be involved. An altered jaw position, damage to the disc, or shrinking of the jawbone can make your jaw look different. Growth of jaw muscles can make your jaw look bigger, another warning sign.
How Is Asymptomatic TMJ Diagnosed?
If there are no symptoms to suggest TMJ, we will have to use more objective, external methods to detect your TMJ. Two common imaging techniques used to detect asymptomatic TMJ are MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography). If you suspect asymptomatic TMJ, it can be detected and proper treatment can be started.
If you suspect you might have asymptomatic TMJ , please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with the Columbia, SC TMJ dentists at Smile Columbia Dentistry today.