TMJ Disorders

What Causes TMJ Disorder?

In order to deal properly with TMJ disorder we need to understand and — if possible — remove the underlying causes and risk factors.  We need to ask: "What else is going on inside the body that might allow TMJ disorder to develop?"

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Accurate diagnosis of the factors behind TMJ disorder consists of three steps:

Step 1: List the Possible Causative Factors

Identify all disease conditions, lifestyle choices and environmental risk factors that can lead to TMJ disorder.  Here are five possibilities:
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Chronic Fatigue-Fibromyalgia
  • Bruxism
  • Osteoarthritis

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

Identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
low lymphocyte count
mild osteoarthritis
afternoon headaches
slightly tight muscles
chronic fatigue in family members
slight diffuse bone pain
severe vision disturbances
non-specific arm pain
frequent difficulty falling asleep
long term neck stiffness
dry eyes
having excess body fat
... and more than 60 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of TMJ disorder:
Cause Probability Status
Rheumatoid Arthritis 95% Confirm
Bruxism 14% Unlikely
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis 0% Ruled out
Chronic Fatigue-Fibromyalgia 0% Ruled out
Osteoarthritis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate joint problems, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Jaw problems. Have you suffered TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint, or hinge of the jaw) malfunction with symptoms of jaw pain, limited jaw movement, or locking? These may be accompanied by clicks, pops, grating or other noises.
Possible responses:
→ Never had it / don't know
→ Minor episode(s) now resolved
→ Major episode(s) now resolved
→ Current minor problem
→ Current major problem
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either history of TMJ disorder or TMJ disorder, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Bruxism (Clenching/Grinding Teeth)

Although the link is not clear, stresses on the jaw caused by bruxism can lead to TMJ dysfunction.  The muscles that stabilize the joint become fatigued from frequent clenching and/or grinding of teeth.

Osteoarthritis

The TMJ may be affected by osteoarthritis, usually in those over 50 years old.  Symptoms include stiffness, grating, or mild pain.  Both sides of the jaw are usually involved.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

If the TMJ is affected by rheumatoid arthritis, it is usually one of the last joints involved.  RA affects the TMJ in almost 20% of cases.  Pain, swelling, and limited movement are the most common symptoms.

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