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Children With TMJ

How To Detect Early Symptoms OF TMJ With Your Child

During your child's dental checkup, the child's dentist might check for signs of temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ). Although TMJ is typically thought of as an adult disorder, children can exhibit early symptoms.

TMJ: A Definition

"TMJ describes a variety of conditions that affect muscles and joints in the jaw that can cause chronic pain in the face," says Dr. Bruce Carter, chief of dental service at Texas Children's Hospital and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. "The earlier the problem is diagnosed and treated with orthodontics, the better."

The joint affected is called the temporomandibular joint that slides and rotates just in front of the ear, consisting of the temporal bone (side and base of the skull) and the lower jaw. Normal functions for this joint include chewing, swallowing, speech and communication. TMJ syndrome may occur when the jaw twists during opening, closing or side-motion movements.

The Symptoms

One of the main symptoms of TMJ is cracking or popping of the temporomandibular joint. In addition to the cracking, other early signs and symptoms of TMJ include headaches, dizziness, buzzing or ringing in the ears and a dull pain around the ears that radiates to the neck, back and shoulders.

"In some cases, TMJ is hereditary. Frequently, there is a family history of similar problems, usually with one of the parents or even the grandparents," says Dr. Carter. Genetics play an important role in the head and neck pain problems caused by TMJ because improper structural alignments, a significant cause of head and neck pain, are passed on from generation to generation.

Other signs of TMJ include the following:

  • Jaw pain or soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon.
  • Jaw pain during chewing, biting and yawning.
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth.
  • Locked or stiff jaw during talking, yawning or eating.
  • Sensitive teeth when no dental problems are found.
  • An earache without infection.
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