The term TMJ is an abbreviation for temporomandibular joint, the joint that connects your jaw to the front wall of your ear canal. People commonly use the term TMJ to describe TMJ syndrome, a temporary but painful disorder that develops in the person’s temporomandibular joint. This syndrome usually causes swelling of the joint, which leads to pain and difficulty opening the jaw.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Allergies and TMJ
Allergies don't commonly cause TMJ, but the two can be linked, particularly in children. Allergies that cause nasal congestion in a child could lead to TMJ syndrome; however, this is uncommon.
More Common Causes
Experts still don’t know exactly what causes TMJ, but have pinpointed several habits that can trigger it. Grinding your teeth can cause swelling in the jaw joint and TMJ. Bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding, tends to occur at night. Stress often causes bruxism. Your dentist can tell if you grind your teeth by examining your mouth. Wearing a prescribed mouth guard at night can help ease the problem. Chewing gum too often or chewing particularly heavy foods can also cause temporary TMJ. Going on a soft diet and putting away the chewing gum for a short time gives your jaw a rest, and helps relieve the swelling and pain.
Most of the time, you can decrease jaw pain from TMJ by sticking to a soft diet, using aspirin or other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs as directed by your doctor, and by applying a warm cloth to the affected jaw three times a day. If the pain doesn’t subside after a week or so, call your medical practitioner, dentist, or an ear-nose-throat specialist, also known as an otolaryngologist, who can help pinpoint the cause:
- of the pain
- devise a treatment plan
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