If you have severe pain in and around the jaw joints and have a problem with your jaw movement, your condition is referred to as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMD. It can be temporary or may last for years.
Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of TMD and whether you need a thorough examination from your dentist or not.
What Are TMJ and TMD?
The temporomandibular joint or TMJ connects your lower jaw to the upper jaw and is located at the bottom of the skull on the front side of your ears. It works similar to a hinge that helps to move your jaw up, down and sideways, so that you can chew, talk, and yawn.
Like other joints in your body, the TMJ can also swell, become sore, or get fractured and result in limited movement of the lower jaw. When problems occur to your jaw and the muscles connected to it, the result is a condition called temporomandibular disorder or TMD.
What Causes TMD?
Dentists are not sure of the exact causes of TMD. They believe that symptoms of TMD arise from injuries to the jaw or its associated muscles. Other causes include:
- Tightening of facial and jaw muscles and clenching your teeth
- Arthritis in the joint
- Disc dislocation of the jaw joint
- Misalignment of the jaw
- Use of orthodontic braces
- Excessive use of chewing gums
Even though there are various symptoms for TMD, they are often difficult to identify. This is because symptoms of TMD are similar to the symptoms of many other medical conditions such as tooth decay, sinus problem, and gum disease. Therefore, only a professional dentist can make a proper diagnosis of TMD. Some of the common TMD symptoms are:
- Pain in the jaw, face, or ear area
- Swelling of the face
- Headaches (similar to migraine)
- Pain and pressure behind the eyes
- A clicking sound is heard when closing or opening the mouth
- A jaw that gets locked or stuck in the open or closed position
- Jaw muscle tenderness
TMJ disorders often respond well to home remedies such as,
- Applying ice packs to the joint
- Eating soft foods
- Taking over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen.
- Avoiding chewing gums
- Gentle stretches and massage of the jaw and neck to relax them
- Relaxation techniques to manage and reduce stress.
When these home remedies are not sufficient to manage your TMD, you may require medical treatments, that include:
- Use a dental splint to prevent tooth grinding as prescribed by your dentist.
- Physical therapy to strengthen jaw muscles and improve their range of motion and flexibility.
- Trigger point acupuncture can also be effective in TMD.
- In severe cases of TMD, you may require a jaw or dental surgery. TMJ arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that can be performed in an outpatient setting and will require a recovery period of one week. In some cases, you may also need a total joint replacement, which will require hospitalization and a recovery period of six weeks.
If you are looking for TMJ treatment near you, schedule an appointment with us today.