TMD is a condition in which the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), which connect the lower jaw to the base of the skull, become sore and movement of the jaw is restricted. No other joints are subject to such a precise discipline as that of the meeting and biting of the teeth. An estimated 50 million people suffer from chronic headache, earache, and facial pain as a result of TMJ/TMD.The cause, in most cases, is a disharmony of joints, muscles and teeth. Emotional stress, which may cause clenching and grinding of the teeth, is seen as a common factor in many cases. A muscle or skeletal imbalance can occur as the result of improper jaw development, misalignment of the teeth, a blow to the face, loss of teeth, recent dental work, improper oral habits, and even poor body posture.
Symptoms of TMD include:
- Pain in the jaw area
- Pain, ringing, or stuffiness in the ears
- Frequent headaches or neck aches
- Clicking or popping sound when the jaw moves
- Swelling on the sides of the face
- Muscle spasms in the jaw area
- A change in the alignment of top and bottom teeth
- Locked jaw or limited opening of the mouth
Should you notice any of these symptoms, let us know! We can help advise you as to whether they indicate the presence of TMD and what sort of treatment may be required.
The first step in treatment is symptomatic care, which usually consists of a soft diet, mild anti-inflammatory agents, moist heat pack and/or ice, and voluntary self-disengagement of the teeth. For many patients this may be the only treatment necessary to relieve symptoms. In more serious cases, splints may be used to reposition the upper and lower jaws. Behavior modification in the form of biofeedback, acupuncture, hypnosis and psychotherapy also may be beneficial. In extreme cases, jaw surgery may be required.
There are some simple things you can do at home or work to prevent TMD:
- Relax your face – remember the rule: “Lips together, teeth apart”
- Avoid grinding your teeth
- Avoid constant gum chewing
- Don’t cradle the phone receiver between your head and shoulder – either use a headset or hold the receiver to your ear
- Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth
- Do not sit with your chin rested on your hand
- Practice good posture – keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared