While TMJ and sleep disorders are physically all in your head, or almost anyway, medical practitioners can sometimes make it seem like the pain you feel is just “all in your head.” The problems associated with TMJ and breathing-related sleep disorders are in your mouth, and your jaws, and your airway, and maybe even in your neck and shoulders. If you don’t do something about the problems, then they can affect other areas of the body as well. In short, if your body is telling you that something is wrong, then you must listen and get help.
The problem many experience however, is not quite understanding who to go to when you begin experiencing discomfort and pain. Throughout my personal journey to find relief from TMJ and related sleep issues, I was met with many of the same obstacles and comments as I hear from my patients, from trying solutions that provide no relief, to nearly being denied treatment because of insurance limitations, to being told my problems were not serious or something to just work through.
People with TMJ often know they have a problem, but they don’t know the source of it until someone else points out symptoms, such as grinding the teeth at night. Consider whether you are experiencing the following warning signs to see if you should seek treatment:
- Severe pain when the mouth is opened
- The jaw catches or locks in the open or closed position
- Pain or tenderness can be felt in the jaw area at the joint in front of the ear or in the head, neck, and/or shoulders
- Pain in the jaw can occur only when used or it can linger
- Clenching or grinding of the jaw
- Experiencing frequent migraines/headaches
- Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw area
- Ear pain, itchiness, or stuffiness, or even tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
While these are the most common symptoms of TMJ, left undiagnosed and treated, TMJ can ultimately affect other areas of the body that do not appear to be related. Many times, individuals will go to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) because they think they are having ear trouble when the problem is actually TMJ.