Characterized by pain and tenderness in the face and jaw, clicking or popping sounds, trouble chewing, or an overall sense of tiredness in the face, Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, or TMD, affects more than 3 million individuals each year. Yet, while TMD is common, it is widely misunderstood, as dental professionals do not know the exact causes of it. Even so, dentists suspect that the symptoms associated with TMD often arise from problems with the muscles in the jaw or the jaw joint.
To better understand, consider the following possible causes of TMD:
- Injury to the jaw, jaw joint, or neck muscles (from injury or whiplash)
- Grinding or clenching the teeth (Bruxism)
- Arthritis of the jaw joint
- Stress (resulting in tightening of the facial muscles or clenching the teeth)
- Chewing gum
While jaw pain is the primary complaint among individuals with TMD, other common complaints are tension headaches as well as ear pain and popping. In addition, patients may experience ringing in the ears, toothaches, shoulder and neck pain, and swelling of one or both sides of the jaw. In turn, because stress is a factor believed to contribute to TMD, a patient’s jaw pain may be a temporary or long-term condition.
Though the causes of TMD vary from person to person, there are things that you can do to relieve your symptoms. For instance, over the counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen work to relieve pain and swelling in many cases. Applying moist heat or ice packs in 10-minute intervals can also help reduce swelling and discomfort. In turn, it’s wise to consider the foods that you are eating. For example, when symptoms are at their worst, it’s best to eat soft foods such as yogurt, soup, mashed potatoes, or cooked fruits and vegetables. This will protect your jaw from becoming aggravated by heavy chewing. Relaxation techniques including physical therapy and massage also help loosen the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and jaw.
When home remedies do not relieve jaw pain, your dentist becomes your greatest ally against the debilitating effects of TMD. Whether a mouth splint is needed, dental work (to correct a misaligned bite), or treatments aimed at restoring blood flow within the jaw, there are many options to relieve or eliminate jaw pain related to TMD.
Compassionate, Patient-Centered Care
Patients feel at ease with the compassionate, patient-centered care they receive at Grateful Dental. Led by Dr. Leia Porcaro, our team is dedicated to helping you understand more about your oral health, so that you can make the most informed decision about your pain. Do not wait another day. If you believe that you’re suffering from TMD, call Grateful Dental today.