TMJ symptoms are not easy to diagnose, because they are often similar to other disorders. Some symptoms, such as headaches, can be caused by other problems. Many people have symptoms similar to TMJ once in a while. For example, when you go to the dentist and have your mouth open for a long period of time, you might notice clicking and popping in your jaw. Similar symptoms may result from intubation during surgery. These symptoms often diminish over time.
Even skilled dentists can have problems determining if a patient’s symptoms are TMJ, and if the symptoms are severe enough to need treatment. TMJ really covers many specific jaw joint and muscle problems–over two dozen, in fact, ranging from the effects of trauma or accidents (including whiplash), to arthritis and infections.(See the Glossary)
Diagnosing the problem always involves a full oral examination and a review of your medical history. Your care provider will seek to rule out other problems for your pain and discomfort, and this may require referrals to other specialists, such as neurologists; ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists; rheumatologists, etc. Depending on the problem, your dentist may wish to use X-rays or other imaging techniques like MRI Scan to get a clearer picture of the TM joint itself. In some instances, he or she may take a cast of your jaw so that a “model” of your jaw working can be made. Many dentists will ask you to take the TMJ Scale to measure symptoms and document the presence or absence of a TMJ disorder. For more information on “TMJ” visit our TMJ Links