Temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJ, is poorly understood, even by the experts in the field. So it’s no wonder that there are many misconceptions about TMJ drifting around on the Internet and among support groups. We are trying to help people learn the truth about TMJ by dispelling these seven common TMJ misconceptions.
All TMJ Is the Same
TMJ is a label that has been used to describe a condition based on the common symptoms that people experienced. The condition has proven to be mysterious to fully explain in the past. It seems now that part of the problem is that TMJ is not just one condition, but many. TMJs often share or have overlapping symptoms, but the true cause and ultimate treatments may differ.
In the future, we’ll probably be able to describe these conditions separately, but for now they remain grouped under the label TMJ (or TMD).
If I Don’t Have Jaw Symptoms, I Don’t Have TMJ
It’s true that symptoms like jaw pain are common in TMJ, but not everyone who has the condition experiences jaw-related symptoms. This is partly because the natural variability of the condition (there’s even something known as “silent TMJ,” which has no noticeable symptoms), but also partly because some people don’t notice or pay attention to symptoms like jaw popping, which may then pass.
If My Jaw Stops Popping, My TMJ Is Better
If your TMJ was associated with a popping jaw, you might want to celebrate when it stops. Suddenly, it seems, your jaw has gotten better.
That’s not the case. Your TMJ is still there, but, if anything, it’s gotten worse. Your jaw may be making a transition from jaw sounds to a locked jaw.
If My Jaw Locks, I Should Force It Closed
There are many self-help sites out there that advocate forcing your jaw closed if it’s become locked. The truth is that this can be painful–and dangerous. You’re trying to blindly force parts of the jaw to move against one another in ways that can result in short-term or long-term damage. You might dislocate your jaw completely, rupture the cushioning disc, grind your bones, or even break your jaw trying to get it closed.
If your jaw locks, seek professional help. They may also be able to teach you how to respond in the future so you can safely treat it at home.
Only Women Get TMJ
More women than men seek treatment for TMJ (perhaps 80-90% of those seeking treatment are women). But there are many reasons to suspect that many men may have undiagnosed TMJ.
A study on the development of TMJ suggested that men and women have about the same risk of developing TMJ. Because TMJ has many symptoms, men may be more likely to confuse their TMJ with a back injury, carpal tunnel, or other injury somewhere besides the jaw. And we know that for a similar condition–migraine–men are significantly underdiagnosed. So it seems likely that many men have TMJ, they just don’t know it.
Surgery Is the Only Treatment for TMJ
Not only are there other treatment options besides surgery, these other treatment options are preferred. We offer nonsurgical, drug-free TMJ treatment that can provide long-lasting, even permanent relief.
The only problem is that surgery may be the only treatment for advanced TMJ. If you want to avoid surgery, it’s best to see a doctor soon about your condition.
Only Old/Young People Get TMJ
Many people think that TMJ is a condition that only develops as a result of joint wear, like arthritis. Others think that TMJ is a condition that only develops during our teenage years, because it depends on the relationship between growing teeth and bones. Although people can develop TMJ as a result of arthritis and it can develop as a teenager, jaw trauma other problems can cause as well. TMJ can actually develop at any point in our lives.