The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says about 5 to 12 percent of people experience TemporoMandibular Disorders (TMD). This acronym covers a range of conditions affecting the joints, muscles, and nerves in the jaw. At Stadium Dental Center in Jefferson City, Missouri, we see these conditions frequently. We can help relieve the symptoms for folks with this painful problem.
What are the temporomandibular joints?
With one on each side of your face, the temporomandibular joints connect your lower jaw to your skull. These joints and the supporting muscles enable you to open and close your mouth, and to move your lower jaw from side to side. If you place your fingers in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel these joints.
What is TMD?
TMD occurs when parts of the temporomandibular joint become inflamed or break down or when the associated muscles become troublesome. The chronic muscle spasms and inflammation associated with this condition become painful and make normal use of the jaws difficult.
What causes TMD?
The cause of the disorder can’t always be pinpointed. However, TMD may be caused by trauma which affects the joints or chewing muscles. It’s often associated with sleep and airway disorders. Stress behaviors, like clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth, can aggravate the condition. TMD appears to be more common in women than men, though the reasons are still being investigated.
How do I know if I have TMD?
Those with TMD may experience one or more of these symptoms on either or both sides of the face:
- Jaw pain or soreness that is more intense in the morning or late afternoon
- Jaw pain connected with chewing, biting, or yawning
- Clicking noises when opening and closing the mouth
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Locking or stiffness of the jaw when talking, yawning, or eating
- Tooth sensitivity not associated with dental problems
- Headaches or neck pain
- An earache not associated with an ear infection
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact us for an evaluation. We can examine the joints and muscles in your jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping, or difficulty moving.
How is TMD treated?
Many TMD cases can be handled with simple lifestyle modifications, including:
- Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
- Taking non-aspirin pain relievers or using heat packs to manage pain
- Eating soft foods
- Practicing relaxation or stress relief techniques
In more severe cases, we may recommend:
- Physical therapy (exercises to strengthen the jaw muscles)
- Appliance therapy (a splint, mouthguard, or bite plate)
- Medication (e.g., pain relievers, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety drugs)
Is TMD permanent?
TMD symptoms are often cyclical and can recur periodically. If you have this disorder, we can monitor your symptoms and manage your condition so you can enjoy a better quality of life. Learn more at the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain.