You wake up in the morning with a gnawing pain in the angle of your jaw. Does this ring a bell? Occasional pain and discomfort may be normal, but if this persists for a long time, then it’s time to consult a healthcare professional. Since you may be suffering from temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD).
The treatment for TMD by our dentist in Kensington, CA, involves a comprehensive approach to relieve excruciating pain and other symptoms of TMD.
What is temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD)?
The TMJ connects your jawbone to the skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw that acts as a sliding hinge, controlling your jaw movements. It is a crucial joint that helps in movements like speaking, biting, and chewing.
TMD is an umbrella term for a group of conditions affecting your jaw joint, surrounding muscles, and ligaments. About 5% to 12% of the adult population may suffer from some form of TMD. Your TMJ could get inflamed or injured, which results in constant throbbing or gnawing pain.
How is TMD caused?
TMD can result from several contributing factors. These include:
- Genetics (passed down to families due to gene defects)
- Trauma to the jaw (jaw fracture or dislocation)
- Persistent teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism)
- Arthritis (joint inflammation) of the TMJ
- Malocclusion (improper alignment of the teeth)
- Stress and anxiety
- Lifestyle habits (poor posture, excessive gum chewing)
What are the clinical symptoms of TMD?
TMD symptoms vary widely and may include the following:
- Excruciating jaw pain
- Facial pain around the ear
- Stiffness and soreness of the jaw
- Shoulder or neck pain (referred pain)
- Difficulty or inability to open or close your mouth (lockjaw)
- Clicking sound of the joint
- Headaches, toothaches, earaches, and migraine
- Tinnitus (a ringing sensation in the ears)
How is TMD treated?
TMD treatment usually depends on the severity of your symptoms. Your dentist will evaluate your oral cavity, check your jaw ROM (range of motion), and assess the pain intensity to design an appropriate treatment plan.
- At home tips
- Consume soft foods and avoid hard, crunchy foods
- Prevent excess mouth-opening
- Massage the affected TMJ
- Use a hot or cold compress for 15 to 20 minutes
- Conservative approach
- Prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications
- Oral splints or mouth guards (occlusal appliances)
- Physical therapy
- Muscle relaxing injections
Severe cases of TMD, not resolved by the above approaches, may require invasive surgical procedures.
Any damage or disease to the TMJ can lead to temporomandibular dysfunction, causing severe pain and discomfort. However, with early diagnosis, proper home care, and a conservative approach, your dentist can help alleviate your symptoms and treat the condition.