Do you hear a clicking sound in your jaw when you move it? Do sometimes feel pain in the facial muscles around your jaw or have difficulty moving it? You might have a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
The temporomandibular joint is the hinge-like structure that connects your lower jaw to your skull. For a variety of reasons, from teeth grinding to external trauma, the joint may become misaligned or injured, giving rise to symptoms such as pain or tenderness in your jaw, earache, facial pain, headaches, jaw clicking, or a locked jaw that makes it hard to open or close your mouth.
If you have this disorder, you might feel quite alone with the diagnosis. But TMJ disorder is more common than you think: an estimated 10 million Americans are affected, particularly women. In fact, a number of celebrities–who usually keep any hint of health problems quiet–have come forward to discuss the condition and their battles with TMJ-related pain. Here are three of the most well-known:
Country singer star Lee Ann Rimes’ struggles with TMJ are well-documented. She’s had to cut short or cancel multiple concerts over the years because of TMJ flare-ups. In 2010, she admitted in a Tweet that her jaw popped out of place mid-concert, which she had to end abruptly. In other Tweets, she’s described her struggles with “severe TMJ pain” and how the condition has injured her jaw and bone, and how once a TMJ flair-up even left her temporarily unable to hear in her left ear. She’s reportedly had more than two dozen dental surgeries to manage the condition.
LeAnn Rimes was barely out of toddlerhood when late legendary actor Burt Reynolds discussed his struggles with TMJ. In the early 1980s, Reynolds was working on the movie, City Heat, when during a fight scene, his co-actor hit him smack in the jaw with a metal chair. From that point onward, Reynolds suffered from intense jaw pain, headaches, clicking jaws, difficulty chewing and maintaining his balance. In his memoir But Enough About Me, he is reported as saying that he “it felt as if I had an army of people in my head and they were trying to get out through my eyes, nose, mouth and ears.”
Reynolds’s symptoms were so severe he stopped working for two years while he struggled with the disorder. Ultimately, he found a dentist who realigned his teeth and helped him to recover.
Famed American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken is another singer who suffered from TMJ. Aiken revealed his condition when admitting to having cosmetic surgery. “I had operative surgery on my jaw for a TMJ thing, and I had the suck the fat out of my chin while they were in there,” he reportedly told US Weekly. While Aiken has not publicly discussed how having TMJ affected his life, but given the experience other stars have described it’s not hard to imagine how the condition might have affected his singing performance or career.
If you’ve been suffering from jaw pain or limited jaw movement, you should consult with an experienced dentist to assess whether you have TMJ. A dentist may be able to help you reduce or eliminate symptoms associated with TMJ.