Do You Have Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)?

April 22, 2014

Do you have jaw pain, clicking noises when you open and close your mouth, or headaches? You may have TMD, also known as temporomandibular disorder or temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Anywhere from 5 to 12 percent of people suffer from TMD, which affects the joints, nerves and muscles in the jaw.

What is TMD?

You have two temporomandibular joints, or TMJ, on each side of your face. They connect your jaw to your skull. TMD occurs when these joints are damaged, or when the muscles surrounding the joints malfunction. Often, the cause of a person’s TMD is unclear. However, it could be caused by stress, trauma, clenching the jaw, or improper bite. For unknown reasons, TMD is 4 times more common in women than it is in men, and most people who suffer are between the ages of 20-40. TMD is the second most common reason for facial pain after toothaches.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of TMD include but are not limited to:

  • Jaw pain associated with chewing, biting, and/or yawning
  • Jaw pain most prevalent in the morning and/or early afternoon
  • Clicking or popping noises when opening and closing the mouth
  • Headaches, earaches, backaches and/or neck pain
  • Difficulty moving, opening, and/or closing the mouth
  • Locking or stiffness of the jaw
  • Toothaches or tooth sensitivity not related to a dental problem
  • Uncomfortable bite

If you have any of these symptoms on one or both sides of your face, you should visit your dentist.

How can I treat my TMD?

Thankfully, there are many ways to treat TMD.

CHANGING YOUR DIET

  • Eat soft foods
  • Avoid hard foods
  • Chew evenly on both sides of your mouth, avoiding the front teeth

CHANGING YOUR HABITS

  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Avoid biting your nails
  • Avoid clenching and grinding your teeth
  • Avoid leaning your jaw into your hand while sitting
  • Maintain good posture

OTHER

  • Over the counter medications such as Ibuprofen can be helpful in relieving pain (take as directed)
  • Other medications such as muscle relaxants or antidepressants (take as directed)
  • Physical therapy
  • Practicing stress relief techniques
  • Heat packs
  • A custom made night guard

Sometimes, TMD goes away by itself or with home treatments. However, TMD is often a cyclic condition, returning in times of stress. Your dentist can help you monitor your disorder and manage your care.

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