Any kind of pain in your mouth is some of the most noticeable and annoying pain, especially when it concerns your jaw. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most important joints as it connects your lower jaw to your skull so you can talk and chew; unfortunately, there are several disorders that can plague said joint. Commonly the terms “TMD” or “TMJ” disorders are used to refer to these issues. TMD symptoms can range from aches and pains to difficulty in moving the joint itself. We break down some of the potential causes of TMD disorders and what potential treatment options there are for them.
What Are Some of the Symptoms of TMD Disorders?
Like other kinds of joint pain, muscle pain in the surrounding area and pain in the jaw itself are the most common symptoms of TMD. Some of the additional symptoms may also include:
- Pain in the face or neck
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- The jaw has limited movement
- Jaw locking
- A clicking or popping sound you can hear or feel at your temporomandibular joint
How Are TMD Disorders Caused?
At this time little is known about how TMD disorders are truly caused. However, both trauma and other health conditions are highly correlated factors that can influence developing TMD. Some of the common health conditions include:
- Joint Erosion
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Structural jaw problems present at birth
While unproven, the factors below have been known to contribute in some ways to TMD disorders as well:
- Prolonged or severe stress
- Poor posture that puts stress on neck and face muscles
- Lack of sleep
What Are Some Treatment Options for TMD?
Luckily, TMD is something that can generally be easily treated by using self-care practices at home. In terms of general practices that can ease immediate symptoms, eating soft foods and avoiding tough ones (like beef jerky) can help. The swelling of the joint can also be reduced with ice or a cold pack. Regular jaw stretching exercises can also help alleviate your symptoms.
In the cases where TMD disorders are more severe, your dentist may recommend or prescribe the following:
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Medication to reduce swelling or relax the jaw
- Jaw alignment to correct your bite and align your teeth
In the most severe (but rare) cases, surgery may be done to replace the TMD entirely. While experiencing TMD disorders can be frustrating, there are effective treatment options available that can help alleviate both pain and discomfort.