Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control movement of the jaw. The temporomandibular joint is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the bone of the skull. This joint is located immediately in front of the ear on each side of the head. The muscles attached to the jaw allow the jaw an incredible amount of movement: side-to-side and up and down. This flexibility allows us to chew, talk, and yawn.
What is TMD?
Those who suffer from TMD experience severe pain and discomfort. This pain can last for as many as several years or just a few months. More women experience TMJ pain than men and the disorder is seen most frequently in people between 20-40 years of age.
Some symptoms include:
• Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or yawn
• Limited ability to open the mouth wide
• Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open-or closed-mouth position
• Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the joint when the mouth is opened or closed
• Tired feeling in the face or neck
• Difficulty chewing
• Sudden uncomfortable feeling when biting
• Headaches or neck aches
What Causes TMD?
The main cause of TMD is still unknown but scientists believe the symptoms are most frequently a result of problems in the muscles of the jaw, and occasionally a problem with joint itself.
Known factors that contribute to TMD include:
• Bruxism – grinding of the teeth
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment Options for TMD
At home treatments for TMD include taking an anti-inflammatory pain medication (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), eating soft foods, and applying warm compresses to the area of pain.
If, however, the symptoms of TMD do not go away on their own, medical treatment may be required. You may be fitted with a splint, or bite plate, that fits over your upper and lower teeth like a mouth sports guard. The splint is designed to reduce clenching or grinding at night, thus easing muscle tension and protecting the TMJ.
If the non-invasive treatment options do not reduce your pain or tenderness more invasive procedures may be indicated. Options such as cortisone shots can help relieve inflammation and pain. A small percentage of patients require jaw joint surgery.
If you think you have TMD, schedule a consultation with us to discuss your symptoms and treatment options!