The hinge holding the jaw to the skull is known as the temporomandibular joint or the TMJ. It is what provides the jaw the biting motion and allows the chewing motion to take place. Any issues with the muscle structures of the face, which control the TMJ are known as temporomandibular disorders or TMD.
Though there is no single cause for TMD, there are contributing factors which seem to worsen the condition. Any patient with arthritis can have significant TMD issues. If a patient continually grinds their teeth or clenches their jaw it can put far too much pressure on the TMJ, resulting in problems. Though it seems obvious trauma to the joint, jaw or even to the head or neck can contribute to TMD.
There is a great deal of pain associated with most TMD issues. Though the symptoms can be temporary, in most cases they last for years. They affect more women than men and has a higher occurrence in those aged twenty to forty. The most common complaints are pain in the face or jaw joint which is aggravated by speaking or chewing. A popping or clicking sound can occur with movement of the jaw too. There could be swelling along cheeks as well as toothaches, migraines, earaches, and even ringing in the ears.
TMD Treatment Options
Applying heat and cold can help to alleviate some of the pain by decreasing the swelling. Reduce the amount of hard foods, sticking to softer foods to give the TMJ a break. Taking over-the-counter medications to help with swelling and tension in the jaw can help alleviate some of the symptoms. Wearing a bite guard at night can help too by not letting the teeth grind together.
One option which will not help is chewing gum. It can actually aggravate it by overworking the already inflamed TMJ. Those patients needing to discuss possible TMD issues are welcome to visit us, we're here to help!