The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects your lower jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. This joint is used when you use your jaw for things like talking, chewing and yawning. If you are having problems with this joint, it is known as a temporomandibular disorder. TMD is extremely common and affects over 10 million Americans, a high percentage being women.
Some potential symptoms are:
- Painful popping or cracking when you open your mouth wide
- Jaw is stuck in an open or closed position
- Swelling and pain on the side of your face
- Pain when you chew or speak
- A change with how your upper and lower teeth fit together
TMD can be caused by a wide variety of things. For this reason, it can be difficult to diagnose. We will note your symptoms, evaluate your head and cervical musculature, take a detailed medical history, and possibly take an x-ray.
Some of the causative factors can include:
- Teeth grinding
- Constant clenching caused by stress
- Hormonal changes
- Imbalances or changes in your bite and missing teeth
- Trauma to the head, neck or jaw
Because the disorder is more commonly found in women, there are currently test being done to potentially link female hormones and TMD.
As far as treatment goes for TMD, conservative palliative treatment is the first step. Evaluating your bite and bite adjustments, known as “occlusal equilibration”, might be necessary to balance your bite, and help calm the musculature. Often splints that help position your jaw correctly might be needed to help diagnose and treat the problem, or may be fabricated to help to alleviate the discomfort or pain. Surgery might be a consideration, in the worst-case situation, one which does not respond to conservative approaches. If your discomfort is caused by teeth grinding, the use of a bite guard can help.
Some helpful conservative treatment might include:
- The use of NSAIDS
- Using an ice pack
- Jaw exercises and stretching
- Head and neck Massage
- Avoid extra strain on your jaw from yawning or yelling