What To Do About TMD Joint Pain?

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, approximately 5 to 12% of people suffer from temporomandibular joint dysfunction, more commonly known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD). This encompasses a variety of conditions affecting the joints, muscles, and nerves in the jaw.

What are the temporomandibular joints?

Located on each side of your face, the temporomandibular joints connect your lower jaw to your skull. These joints and their accompanying muscles allow you to open and close your mouth, and to move your lower jaw from side to side. You can feel these joints by placing your fingers in front of your ears and opening your mouth.

What is TMD?

TMD occurs when the temporomandibular joint is damaged or deteriorated, or when the muscles surrounding the joint malfunction, causing imbalance jaw movement. The chronic muscle pain and spasms associated with this condition often can be quite painful.

What causes TMD?

TMD may be caused by trauma, such as injury or dislocation, or an improper bite, which affects the chewing muscles. Stress and its related behaviors, like clenching or grinding the teeth can aggravate the condition. TMD appears to be more common in women than men. 

How do I know if I have TMD?

Those with TMD may experience the following symptoms on one or both sides of the face:

  • Jaw pain or soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon.
  • Jaw pain associated with chewing, biting, or yawing.
  • Clicking noises when opening and closing the mouth.
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth.
  • Locking or stiffness of the jaw when talking, yawning, or eating.
  • Tooth sensitivity not associated with dental problems.
  • Headache or neck pain.
  • An earache not associated with an ear infection.

If you have any of these symptoms, please talk to us and we can perform an evaluation to determine cause of problem. 

How is TMD treated?

Many TMD cases can be handled with simple lifestyle modifications, including:

  • Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
  • Taking non-asprin pain relievers or using heat packs to manage pain
  • Eating soft foods
  • Practicing relaxation or stress relief techniques

In more severe cases, we may recommend physical therapy (exercises to strengthen the jaw muscles), appliance therapy (mouth guard), or medication (stronger pain relievers, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-depressants, or anti-anxiety drugs). 

Is TMD permanent?

TMD is often a cyclic condition that can recur during times of stress. If you have this disorder or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, we recommend discussing it with us so we may monitor and manage your care.