What is TMD? To begin with, it’s short for temporomandibular disorder. TMD affects facial joints and muscles, especially those used in chewing, such as the joints where the jaw connects to the skull. TMD is a common and usually not serious condition, but can vary in severity and have negative impacts on overall health and quality of life.
There are many factors that can lead to TMD, and each case is unique. Some common causes of TMD include:
- Tooth grinding
- Stress and tension
- Past injuries
- Structural issues such as an uneven bite
- Conditions such as osteoarthritis that cause joints to weaken and wear down over time
However, TMD can also develop without an obvious cause. How do you know if you have TMD? Here are some common signs:
- Jaw ClickingTMD can often be identified by a clicking or popping noise accompanying chewing or speaking.
- PainTMD pain can vary from mild discomfort to severe. TMD can cause pain around the jaw and in front of the ears, which can spread to the temples, cheeks, and the rest of the face. TMD can also cause headaches and migraines.
- Aches Aching pain caused by TMD can spread to other parts of the body, including the ears, neck, and back. There may also be a blocked sensation in one or both ears.
- Difficulty ChewingTMD can lead to a very stiff or sore jaw, which can make opening and closing the mouth difficult. This in turn impacts eating, drinking, and speaking. The jaw may be painful to open and close, or it may feel stuck.
- TwitchingDue to the tension caused by TMD, a facial twitch may develop. This can be very uncomfortable.
As you can see, these symptoms vary from mildly irritating to severely painful. Fortunately, for those who suffer from TMD, symptoms often persist only for a couple months, and there are many ways to treat them. If you think you have TMD, make an appointment with your dentist. They will be able to properly diagnose you as well as suggest appropriate treatment options. In rare cases of severe TMD, your dentist may recommend seeing an oral surgeon. Otherwise, treatment options include:
- Rest for the joints, achieved by eating soft foods and moving the jaw as little as possible
- Treating with heat or ice
- Jaw stretches
- Relaxation techniques such as meditation
- Painkillers, over the counter or prescribed
- Mouth guards to deter tooth grinding
- Steroid injections, especially in the case of arthritis
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, set up an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.