Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are caused by complications with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Your TMJ lets you open and close your mouth, letting you partake in activities like eating and speaking. The joint consists of your muscles, jaw bone, and ligaments. When an injury or condition interferes with this complex mechanism, the results are a TMD. Contact your dental professional immediately when experiencing jaw pain. An early TMD diagnosis prevents lasting damage and pain.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
The major indicator of a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is pain when eating or moving your temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Other symptoms include limited movement in the jaws, clicking or popping noises when opening or closing your mouth, trouble chewing, a sudden misalignment of the teeth, fatigued facial muscles, headaches, and a swelling on one side of the face.
Causes of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
For the majority of people suffering from temporomandibular disorders (TMD), the cause behind their jaw and muscle pain is unidentifiable. What is known is that a higher prevalence exists in the female population. A possible link between female hormones and TMD needs further investigating.
The other major contributing factor to temporomandibular disorders are trauma to the temporomandibular joint. This manifests in a variety of ways. Arthritis can occur in the jaws, causing pain and complications. An injury might fracture or damage the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Even malocclusion, or a misalignment of the bite, can lead to TMD. Another common cause is bruxism, clenching or grinding of the teeth.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In terms of a TMD diagnosis, there isn’t a standard procedure for dental professionals. Reviewing your medical and dental history provides insight for a diagnosis. At your dental examination, your jaw is felt for pain and tenderness. Limited motion or a locked jaw are serious indicators. Any clicking or popping sounds are also noted. The dentist will study your mouth, neck, and face. Together, these symptoms are enough for a diagnosis.
Treatment of TMD is ideally noninvasive and more conservative in nature. Your dentist will help you decide on a treatment plan that works best for you. Even for persistent disorders, these recommendations work. The best steps for relieving symptoms are:
- Applying icepacks to the jaws
- Avoiding harsh jaw movements like yawning and gum chewing
- Only eating softer foods
- Jaw stretching and strengthening exercises
Other options are over-the-counter pain medication for inflammation and discomfort. Your dentist might also prescribe a stronger anti-inflammatory medication or even muscle relaxants. The most common treatment is stabilization splints, oral appliances that are placed over your top and bottom teeth. These are only used for a small amount of time. If your pain increases, contact your dentist right away.
For TMD that is irreversible and cannot be solved with these other techniques, treatments involve surgery, occlusal adjustments, repositioning splints, and orthodontics. It is important to conduct research and gather opinions from multiple medical professionals before agreeing to any irreversible options. Certain treatments may cause more harm than good.