What Is The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?
The TMJ is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull and is in front of the ear on either side of your head. The joint is flexible allowing for chewing, yawning and talking. The muscles surrounding the joint allow for the control and movement.
What Causes Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)?
TMD occurs as a result of the problems associated with the jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles. There are many possible causes of TMD:
- Injury from trauma to the joint
- Clenching or grinding your teeth which is often intensified with stress
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can affect the joint
- Dislocation of the disc within the joint
What Are the Symptoms of TMD?
- Pain or tenderness in the face, joint, neck and shoulders or around the ear when chewing, talking or opening your mouth.
- Decreased opening of the mouth.
- Jaws locking in an open or closed position.
- Clicking or popping of the joint when opening or closing can occur with or without pain.
- Difficulty chewing and feeling that your bite may be off.
- Other symptoms include toothaches, headaches, neckaches, dizziness, earaches, problems hearing or ringing in the ears.
The pain associated with TMD can be temporary or can last for many years. It is more common in women than in men and between the ages of 20 and 40.
How Do You Treat TMD?
There is a large range of treatments depending on how severe the symptoms of TMD are. It is best to consult your dentist for the treatment that would be appropriate for any symptoms you may be experiencing.
- Apply heat or do simple stretching exercises instructed by your dentist.
- Eat soft foods.
- Take Medication-Most commonly anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended to help with muscle pain and swelling such as aspirin or ibuprofen which is over the counter. Your dentist can prescribe higher doses of this if needed. Muscle relaxants can also be prescribed to help relax tight jaw muscles.
- Wearing a splint or a nightguard-These are mouthpieces that fit on your upper or lower teeth that prevent the upper and lower teeth from touching which lessens the effect of clenching or grinding. They can also correct the bite by positioning the teeth into a less traumatic position.
- Ask your dentist what the best treatment is for you if you are experiencing any of these problems.