What is the Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ )and how does it cause Tinnitus?
The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the skull. This meeting point is just in front of the ear. Your jawbone is controlled by the muscles in the TMJ. It is easy to feel for yourself how the TMJ works. Place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth. You can feel the joint and how it moves. When you open your mouth, the ends of the lower jaw (called condyles) glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. When you close your mouth the condyles slide back to their original position. A soft disc of cartilage lies between the condyle and the temporal bone. This disc absorbs shock to the temporomandibular joint from chewing and other movements. It helps keep the movement smooth.
If the jaw becomes misaligned though damage or dental problems then the joint and its cartilage can become worn,inflamed or even locked up.
What are the symptoms of TMJ syndrome
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
- Chronic headaches
- Facial pain
- Pain in the jaw muscles
- Pain in the neck and shoulders
- Painful clicking, popping or grating in the TMJ joint when opening or closing the mouth
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Pain in the jaw and ear
- Feeling of fullness in the ear
- A bite that feels “off” or misaligned
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Sore jaw
- Ear pain and pressure
- Dislocated jaw
What causes Temporomandibular joint syndrome?
Temporomandibular joint syndrome or Temporomandibular joint disorder can be caused by trauma, disease, wear and tear due to aging, or habits.
Trauma: there are two types of trauma
Macrotrauma is external damage such as a punch to the jaw or damage from an accident. This can lead to the jaw been broken, a dislocated jaw, misaligned jawbone or damage to the cartilage disc.
Microtrauma is internal damage. This can be caused by grinding teeth (bruxism) or constantly clenching teeth. Both of these put constant pressure and stress on the tmj. This can lead to inflammation and misalignment
Joint diseases such as Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis can cause TMJ problems.
Osteoarthritis causes new bone growth on the joints and loss of cartilage.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the joints and loss of bone at the joint.
TMJ and Aging
As we get older the temporomandibular joint wears down. This causes the joint to be come looser which can make it easier to dislocate the jaw. Debris from the grinding can stay in the area and cause irritation and inflammation of the joint
How does TMJ cause tinnitus?
The muscles and nerves in the Temporomandibular joint are closely connected to those in the ear. When the joint is inflamed or misaligned, TMJ can interfere with the ear’s nerves. This leads to corrupt signals been sent to the brain. The brain tries to fix the errors. This fixing produces the tinnitus.
Temporomandibular joint treatment and tinnitus relief
There are a variety of treatment for TMJ. Fortunately for most people the symptoms can be mild and will ease on their own within several weeks. Eating soft foods, applying ice and gentle heat, gentle jaw exercises can all be done at home without any medical intervention.
Some people may need more medical tmj therapy and help from a tmj specialist.
Stabilization of the TMJ.A plastic guard may be fitted over the teeth to prevent damage from grinding or clenching. This eases the pressure on the joint and allows inflammation to reduce naturally.
Yoga, biofeedback and stress management may be used to help the patient relax and reduce the bruxism
Cortisone medication can be very helpful in relieving inflammation and pain. Cortisone steroid is injected directly into the inflamed joint. This is only a treatment for the joint pain. If the cause of the TMJ disorder is not treated then the pain will eventually return
Surgical treatment for TMJ
Surgery is usually the last option after other treatments have been tried
Injections into the TMJ may help to flush out irritating debris.
Rough joints can be shaved to ease the grinding and free the movement of the jawbone.
If none of these are helping then surgery to replace the joints with implants may be suggested.
Controversial TMJ therapies
There are controversial treatments such as grinding down the teeth, or corrective dentistry to realign the jaw. At present these treatments are not proved to cure the problems in the jaw or may only provide temporary relief. These treatments can be very expensive and not many dental insurance plans cover them.
Temporomandibular joint disorder and Tinnitus
Once the cause of tmj syndrome has been diagnosed and treated then the tinnitus should ease and disappear. This is one form of tinnitus that can be cured and has very good rates of success.
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