Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders or TMD are usually diagnosed based on symptoms. Most people with TMD will complain of jaw or facial pain, as well as many other uncomfortable symptoms, and seek treatment. What you may not know is that the appearance of your facial features may indicate your likelihood of having TMD, even before there are noticeable symptoms.
TMD refers to dysfunction of the jaw joint. This is not one condition but a combination of disorders that can affect the jaw joint. Injuries to the jaw from accidents, or misalignment of the bite, can put stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and tissues within the jaw joint. Jaw clenching or teeth grinding (bruxism) can make the condition worse. Those with TMD symptoms may experience the following:
- Clicking or popping when opening/closing jaw
- Headaches or migraines
- Plugged ears
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Jaw pain and tenderness
TMD can be caused by stress on the jaw from injuries or conditions, but many people are born with a higher risk of this disorder. Certain facial features can indicate that you may be at risk of TMD, even if you do not have symptoms yet.
Facial Features of TMD
When the jaw and bite are improperly aligned, it is usually noticeable. This misalignment changes the way the facial structure appears. It is not just the jaw and mouth – specific features can indicate TMD potential or an existing disorder. Some of the typical facial features that are noticeable in TMJ disorder patients include:
- Facial asymmetry. TMD involves an internal imbalance of jaw components, but it does not stay internal. The imbalance can be noticeable as facial asymmetry, with jaw bulges and different jaw heights.
- Poor cheekbone structure. If the cheekbones look sunken, it can be due to poor jaw structure, changing the cheekbone prominence.
- Eyes look tired. When the cheekbones are less prominent, the eyes can look tired. There is a higher chance of eye bags and sunken eyes that appear tired.
- Crooked nose. The asymmetry that occurs with TMD can affect the nose, especially the septum. Many patients with TMD have a deviated septum or crooked nose appearance.
- Retruded lower jaw. One of the key facial features of TMD patients is a weak chin or retruded lower jaw. This contributes to the symptoms of TMD and sleep apnea.
- Crooked or uneven teeth. Dental or orthodontic disorders can cause TMD, but TMD can also contribute to crooked or uneven teeth.
Those with these facial features are at higher risk for TMD. The good news is that TMD symptoms can be relieved with the proper treatment, and patients can achieve a more symmetrical and attractive facial appearance. If you have TMD symptoms or facial features indicating TMJ disorder, contact our team at the Southern California and Sleep Center. We can schedule your appointment with one of the leading experts in TMD treatment, Bob Perkins, DDS.
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