Having Jaw Pain? What You Need to Know About TMD

What is TMJ/TMD?

Having jaw pain and muscle aches in your face can be associated with temporomandibular disorders (TMD), also known as TMJ after the temporomandibular joint. This joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull located in front of each ear, allowing your jaw to move up and down and side to side, so you can talk, chew, and yawn.

Causes & Risk Factors

There is no clear cause for most TMD cases. However, most causes and risk factors include the following:

  • an injury to the jaw from a heavy blow or whiplash
  • rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis in the jaw joint
  • grinding your teeth puts a lot of pressure on the joint
  • poor posture can cause jaw pain and neck strain
  • stress can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles or teeth clenching

Symptoms

Pain and discomfort are the most common symptoms of TMD. Due to these factors, you may also be experiencing painful clicking, popping, or grating when closing or opening your mouth. Sometimes your jaw will get stuck open or closed, or you may not be able to open your mouth very wide.

Other symptoms may include:

  • tenderness in your face, jaw pain in the joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
  • stiffness in your face
  • trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite — as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
  • swelling on the side of your face

Diagnosis

One way to diagnose TMD is by doing a physical exam. During the physical exam, your dentist will listen to and feel your jaw when you open and close your mouth to observe the range of motion in your jaw. They will also press on areas around your jaw to identify sites of pain or discomfort. If your dentist suspects a problem with your jaw, you may need panoramic X-rays. A CT scan can provide detailed images of the bones involved in the joint, and MRIs can reveal problems with the joint’s disk.

Treatment

In many cases, you can ease jaw pain simply by resting the jaw joint. In other cases, your dentist may need to make a mouthpiece or night guard that fits over your upper or lower teeth to keep your teeth separated from each other. This makes it harder to grind your teeth and clench your jaw. Mouthpieces are worn 24 hours a day, while night guards are worn only at night. As many as 70% – 90% of the people who wear them get some pain relief.

Other Options

Your dentist may suggest using moist heat or cold packs, stress reduction, and a mouth guard to keep you from grinding your teeth. If those don’t help, you may need a prescription for muscle relaxants or pain medications to relieve the jaw pain. If there’s still no relief, surgery is the last form of treatment. It could mean arthroscopy (using an instrument with a tiny camera to look at the joint and remove tissue or realign the joint) or full, open-joint surgery.

At Advanced DDS, we want to make sure you and your family are well-educated on your oral health. When it comes to TMD or jaw pain, feel free to give us a call at (516) 825-1100 to reserve your complimentary consultation for more information on relieving your jaw pain from our dentists.

Advanced DDS is proud to serve the surrounding cities: Mineola, Hempstead, West Hempstead, Franklin Square, Uniondale, New Hyde Park, Westbury, North New Hyde Park, Roosevelt, North Merrick, Roslyn, Carle Place, Williston Park, Old Westbury, Albertson, East Meadow, Garden City Park, Floral Park, East Garden City and many more.

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