The joint at each side of your face (the temporomandibular joint) acts as a sliding hinge and connects your jaw bone with your skull.
When you´re affected by a temporomandibular disorder (TMD), you might feel pain in the muscles controlling jaw movements and the joint itself.
However, many factors can produce jaw pain, whether genetics, bruxism, jaw injuries, or arthritis. This combination of factors makes it difficult to determine a patient´s temporomandibular joint disorder.
Here, we´ll be talking about temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), what causes it, its symptoms, and the most common treatment options. Let´s begin!
TMD, 5 Facts You Must Know
The bone parts involved in the temporomandibular joint´s hinge action and sliding movements are covered in cartilage and separated by a small disk.
This small disk acts as a shock-absorbing unit, which helps in keeping your jaw´s movements very smooth. TMD might be caused by:
- Erosion of the previously mentioned disk due to improper alignment.
- Arthritis, which might damage the joint´s cartilage.
- Damage sustained by your jawbone, the joint itself, or your head and neck´s muscles, either by a direct blow or any other impact.
- Bruxism, this condition causes patients to grind/clench involuntarily their teeth. They are putting excessive pressure on the temporomandibular joint.
- Stress can also cause facial/jaw muscle tightening and teeth-clenching.
TMD symptoms might be felt on one or both sides and can be temporary or persist for many years. Also, TMD is more common in female patients between 20-40years.
The most usual symptoms associated with TMD include:
- A clicking sound or popping/grating sensation whenever you open or close your mouth. This could (or couldn´t) produce pain.
- You might feel your jaw is getting stuck either in the open (or closed) mouth position.
- Sensibility, and even pain in your jaw joint, face, neck, shoulders, and in/around the ear. This might cause trouble opening your mouth, chewing, or speaking.
- Biting problems, probably because your upper and lower teeth are not aligning well.
- Swelling or a tired feeling on one side (or both) of your face.
There are many other TMD symptoms: tinnitus, earaches, neck pain, headaches, toothaches, or upper shoulder pain. If you´re feeling any of these symptoms, immediately consult your dentist.
Nevertheless, many other conditions present with similar symptoms. So, your dentist has to conduct a thorough physical examination and check your health history to diagnose TMD accurately.
To rule out any other complications, your dentist might need full-face X-rays. Also, magnetic resonance imaging or computer tomography. This will help in diagnosing (or discarding) TMD.
Once diagnosed with TMD, your dentist might suggest some anti-inflammatory, over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or naproxen to help with the symptoms.
Apply an ice pack for 10minutes and eat mostly soft foods. Also, try keeping your teeth from clenching/grinding, either by using a splint or putting your tongue between them.
A dentist might treat TMD by performing some dental work to correct the biting surfaces. However, there are more complicated cases requiring a more specific approach.
These treatment options include transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), Trigger-point injections, or surgical options such as Arthrocentesis, Arthroscopy, or Open-joint surgery.
Some conditions can also help increase the risk of developing temporomandibular joint disorders. These include:
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Connective tissue diseases.
- Chronic teeth clenching/grinding.
- Previously-sustained jaw injuries.
Most TMD-associated complications can be treated with self-managed care. Thus, surgical treatment is generally kept as a last resort.
Are you experiencing jaw pain or discomfort? Contact us to book an appointment. Our experts will examine you and devise the best-suited treatment plan for your case.