Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) can make it difficult to live a normal, fulfilling life. The pain and dysfunction can affect physical appearance, the ability to socialize, and the ability to maintain a busy schedule.
TMJ treatment can reduce or eliminate symptoms and allow people to return to their normal lives.
Appearance and Self Image Changes
TMJ can have a dramatic affect on your appearance. One of the most noticeable and disturbing changes is the appearance of asymmetry. Muscles may develop disproportionately on one side of the face. You may experience excessive tooth wear or damage on one side of the face. Your jaw joints may be dislocated or damaged, causing your jaw to sit at an angle.
When TMJ damages your teeth, causing them to become worn, chipped, cracked or even lost, you might feel self-conscious about your smile. It can become impossible to smile with confidence, and you might start hiding your smile, even among friends or close family.
People can also experience significant weight changes as a result of TMJ. Jaw pain can make it hard to eat, and some people solve this problem by just not eating. This can lead to unhealthy weight loss that also dramatically impacts your appearance and can make you look old and tired.
Others deal with jaw pain by eating more processed foods that are soft and easy to eat without chewing. Fast food, ice cream, and even smoothies are common choices but they are full of sugar, calories, and fat, leading to significant weight gain, which is also unhealthy and can make you unhappy with your appearance.
Having a full and active social life is essential to having a healthy, happy life, but TMJ can make it much harder to enjoy a social life. Many people may respond to appearance changes by isolating themselves and avoiding social functions they had previously enjoyed.
Eating and drinking difficulty can interfere with your social life. So many social events center on food and drink, that you might start to avoid these for fear that people will notice you’re not eating or can’t chew properly.
Jaw pain and dysfunction can make it hard for people to speak clearly and make themselves understood over the din of social gatherings. Even smiling to greet someone or laughing in response to a joke can become painful and people may avoid it or cut short their expressions of happiness, making social interactions more difficult and less rewarding.
Life Plans Dashed
It’s hard for people with TMJ to make and maintain plans. Essential daily commitments like family and work become major challenges. Playing with your children can be difficult because TMJ can make it hard to run, hard to lift your kids, and hard to sit on the ground to play. Dizziness and vertigo can make playtime all but impossible to enjoy. You will be less able to spend time with your spouse, too, both intimate time and daily social time.
Headaches and jaw pain can make it hard for you to make it to work and hard for you to do your work when you’re there. Although your employer may be able to make some concessions, TMJ can effectively derail your career.
With your career in doubt, your budget can be thrown off. You may have to raid your savings to pay for medical care, and you may experience financial worries that you never had before.
Plans for travel may have to be shelved as pressure changes in an airplane cause painful TMJ flare-ups. Even driving for extended periods of time becomes a challenge, eliminating road trips.
Even changes in the weather can cause an onset of symptoms, making you cancel plans at the final minute or go ahead with minimal participation or enjoyment.
Get Your Life Back
In short, TMJ can impact virtually every area of your life. It’s like having your life hijacked by this condition.
But you don’t have to live this way. TMJ can be a challenge to treat, but for many people there are successful treatment options, you just have to keep trying.