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How can things go wrong with TMJ?


In most patients, pain associated with the TMJ is a result of displacement of the cartilage disc that causes pressure and stretching of the associated sensory nerves. The popping or clicking occurs when the disk snaps into place when the jaw moves. In addition, the chewing muscles may spasm, not function efficiently, and cause pain and tenderness. Both major and minor trauma to the jaw can significantly contribute to the development of TMJ problems. If you habitually clench, grit, or grind your teeth, you increase the wear on the cartilage lining of the joint, and it doesn’t have a chance to recover. Many persons are unaware that they grind their teeth, unless someone tells them so. Chewing gum much of the day can cause similar problems. Stress and other psychological factors have also been implicated as contributory factors to TMJ dysfunction. Other causes include teeth that do not fit together properly (improper bite), mal-positioned jaws, and arthritis. In certain cases, chronic mal-position of the cartilage disc and persistent wear in the cartilage lining of the joint space can cause further damage.