Symptoms of TMD
The temporomandibular joint or commonly referred to as TMJ, is a small joint located in front of the ear where the skull and jaw met. The TMJ acts as a flexible hinge joint that allows the lower jaw to move and function smoothly up and down and side to side, enabling you to talk and chew.
Temporomandibular disorders, or TMD, happens as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, or surrounding muscles of the face that control chewing and movements of the lower jaw. These disorders are often incorrectly called “TMJ,” as TMJ is the jaw joint itself that everybody possesses. If you have recurring pain where your jaw meets your temple, or if your jaw frequently clicks or even locks up when you chew, you could be suffering from TMD.
Because the TMJ and surrounding muscles control bite, speech, chewing, and all other jaw movements, TMD can be not only irritating but quite painful.
Causes of TMD
The cause of TMD is unclear, but most dental professionals believe that the symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or the joint itself. Other possible causes of TMD include grinding or clenching of the teeth, previous injury to the jaw or muscles of the head and neck, or stress (which may lead to teeth clenching). TMD is very common and can manifest in a variety of ways. The most common symptoms are earaches, headaches, pain upon opening and closing the mouth, a tired or sore feeling in the face, and swelling on the side of the affected face.
Treatment for TMD
Professional treatment ranges from simple self-care practices and conservative treatments to surgical options such as a total temporomandibular joint (TMJ) replacement. Often times a retainer-style mouthguard is all that is needed to compensate for an irregular biting forces causing TMD. Studies have also demonstrated that these retainer-style mouthguards often alleviate headaches, facial pain, and tooth pain related to teeth grinding and clenching. Massages can also be helpful to relieve muscle tension, and medication can be used to reduce inflammation to make you more comfortable.