TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder, also called TMD) may not seem like much at first. You might dismiss the symptoms because you can–they’re not disabling, and if they’re painful, it may be only intermittent. So you dismiss the symptoms.

But it’s actually important to take these symptoms seriously. TMJ is a condition that gets progressively worse. The sooner we start treatment, the more treatment options you have, and the more successful treatment is likely to be–and the less expensive. If you ignore these symptoms, you might experience serious damage to your teeth as a result.

TMJ Warning Signs Can Help You Avoid Tooth Damage

Jaw Popping and Clicking

Many people think that jaw popping is harmless. They might think it’s the same as cracking your knuckles. But it’s not.

Jaw popping and clicking is actually closer to dislocating your shoulder. The popping is caused by the cushioning disc in your jaw joint being out of place. When your jaw reaches a certain point, it slips back into place, which causes the popping or clicking sound.

When the disc is out of place, the bones can grind together, and they can pinch the ligament that’s supposed to hold the disc in place, damaging it. This causes damage to the ligament, and it leads to inflammation, which can be painful and might stop the disc from slipping back in the future.

Limited Jaw Opening

Did you used to enjoy Dagwood sandwiches, but now find you can’t open your jaw wide enough? Do you even have trouble with hamburgers that have thick buns? Does yawning cause you trouble?

You might think that there’s nothing to worry about from your limited jaw opening, but this is actually a sign that you have a serious jaw dysfunction. If you don’t do anything about it, you’ll likely find that the amount you can open your jaw decreases over time. And one day it may get stuck open or closed–which can be very scary and requires professional intervention.

Sore Jaw after Talking or Eating

Did you eat so much at Christmas dinner that your jaw hurt? Or maybe it was all the socializing with friends and family, not to mention the big smiles. You might think this is normal, but the truth is that your jaw should be able to handle almost any meal. And you should also be able to talk with friends and family without developing serious discomfort. If you are finding that talking and eating is causing you jaw pain, it’s time to take the symptom seriously and talk to a neuromuscular dentist about your condition.

Ringing and Other Ear Symptoms

People with TMJ often develop ear symptoms. In fact, some studies suggest that about 80% of TMJ sufferers have ear-related symptoms like ringing in the ears, ear fullness, ear pain, dizziness, or vertigo.

The good news is, this means that treating TMJ may be able to help with these other symptoms, which often don’t have other good treatment options. The bad news is that ignoring these symptoms can be putting your teeth at risk.

Sore, Chipped, or Cracked Teeth

You might think that tooth soreness is normal after you eat hard foods. But there’s no modern foods that should be making your teeth sore. (Remember, don’t use your teeth to crack nuts or crunch ice.) Some people get sore teeth if they are clenching their teeth due to stress. This is also not a good sign. And if you wake up with sore teeth, this is likely a warning sign that you have TMJ, sleep apnea, or both.

Sore teeth often precede cracked or chipped teeth. And once teeth start cracking, they likely won’t stop. If you experience a cracked or chipped tooth, you should talk to a dentist not just about repairing the tooth, but also about the health of your bite and whether this is likely to happen again.

Get Your Bite Evaluated

It’s important to take your TMJ symptoms seriously so you can get treatment early. Otherwise, not only are you likely to need more invasive TMJ treatment, you’re more likely to need full mouth reconstruction to restore teeth damaged as a result.

If you have TMJ symptoms in Columbus, OH, and you’re looking to get treatment before serious damage to your teeth occurs, please call (614) 848-5001 today for an appointment with TMJ dentist Mike Firouzian at Firouzian Dentistry.