TMJ/TMD Treatment: Something to Smile About
Do you suffer from chronic pain in the area near your ear, jaw or muscles, or on the side of your face? Do you hear a clicking or popping sound, or feel like you can’t readily move your jaw? You could have TMD, also known as Temporomandibular dysfunction. Many times, TMD is incorrectly referred to as TMJ, but this affects the temporomandibular joint itself. Bottom line is, you could have TMJ but you don’t necessarily have TMD.
TMD is basically a grouping of conditions that result in pain and dysfunction of the TMJ and/or the muscles surrounding it. Many TMD cases go away on their own, helped along by remedies you can prepare at home. It’s always best to explore all at-home remedies before resorting to surgery or bridge work.
The two TMJs connecting the lower jaw, also known as the mandible, to the temporal bone of the skull, are responsible for movement. The lower jaw and temporal bone work as a ball-and-socket, featuring a disk that cushions that movement. Your cheek and temple muscles operate the lower jaw. If any of these systems are out of whack, a TMD issue can arise.
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What Causes TMD?
TMJ can stem from orthopedic problems such as inflammation, sore or strained muscles, and disk pain. TMD can also be genetic and subject to age, while other times, it can be triggered by physical and psychological stress. Fibromyalgia can be another cause.
TMD: What to Look Out For
- Muscle Pain: You may experience pain, soreness or stiffness in the cheeks or temples, particularly when you first wake up in the morning. This is due to clenching or grinding teeth while sleeping. Your dentist can make you a custom night guard to help relieve the muscle pain.
- Joint Pain: This type of pain is also known as arthritis of the TMJ. There is currently no cure for arthritis, but you can be prescribed medication to relieve joint pain.
- Clicking: When you speak or chew, you may hear an annoying clicking or popping sound, brought on by the shifting of the joint disk. While clicking isn’t a qualifying symptom on its own, when you also have pain or can’t move your properly, this could form a TMD diagnosis.
Obtaining Pain Relief
Once you have visited your dentist and have undergone a thorough exam, you can start engaging in behaviors that will help manage Temporomandibular dysfunction. You may be told to switch to a diet of softer foods to cut down on the stress to the muscles and joints. Apply ice or heat for soreness and inflammation relief. In the case of muscle spasms, engage in some gentle stretching exercises. You can also take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants over the counter.
In some cases, you may have to undergo more complex forms of treatment, including:
- Dental restorations (i.e., bridgework)
- Cortisone injections
- Flushing of the joint
These are rare instances, though. Once you have tried the above treatments at home, give them time to work. We here at Redwood Dental would be happy to assess your risk for TMJ/TMD. Book an appointment at (800) 462-2222.