Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control movement of the jaw. The temporomandibular joint is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the bone of the skull. This joint is located immediately in front of the ear on each side of the head. The muscles attached to the jaw allow the jaw an incredible amount of movement: side-to-side and up and down. This flexibility allows us to chew, talk, and yawn.
What is TMD?
Those who suffer from TMD experience severe pain and discomfort. This pain can last for as many as several years or a few months. More women experience TMD pain than men and the disorder is seen in people between 20-40 years of age.
Some symptoms include:
• Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or yawn
• Limited ability to open the mouth wide
• Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open-or closed-mouth position
• Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the joint when the mouth is opened or closed
• Tired feeling in the face or neck
• Difficulty chewing
• Sudden uncomfortable feeling when biting
• Swelling on the side of the face
• Headaches or neck aches
• Hearing problems
• Upper shoulder pain
• Ringing in the ears
What Causes TMD?
The main cause of TMD is still unknown but scientists believe the symptoms are a result of problems in the muscles of the jaw or with parts of the joint.
Known factors that contribute to TMD include:
• Bruxism – Grinding of the teeth
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment Options for TMD Problems
Dr. Struble has spent many years studying at the Dawson Center for Advanced Dental Studies to become an expert at occlusal adjustments. Occlusal, or bite, adjustment is a procedure performed to remove tiny interferences that keep teeth from coming together properly. These interferences can prevent the jaw from closing in its anatomically correct position. Interferences can develop as teeth develop, can occur following an accident, or they can accumulate over time with wear. Dental work such as fillings, crowns, bridges, and extractions can also cause interferences.
Interferences can prevent the jaw from fully sliding into its anatomically correct position. This means that the muscles of the jaw and neck are never able to fully relax. This may result in severe headaches and neck aches. Many develop bruxism, or teeth grinding, as their jaw seeks its natural position. Bruxism can cause bone loss, tooth loss, and receding gums. Overtime, patients may develop tempromandibular joint issues, or TMD, if they go untreated.
Most often, TMD symptoms will go away on their own because your jaw joint will rest and recover while you are unable to chew. At home treatments for TMD include taking an anti-inflammatory pain medication (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), eating soft foods, and applying warm compresses to the area of pain.
If, however, the symptoms of TMD do not go away on their own medical treatment may be required. Your doctor may show you some muscle stretching and relaxation exercises to perform at home that may help relax the jaw. You may be fitted with a splint, or bite plate, that fits over your upper and lower teeth like a mouth sports guard. The splint is designed to reduce clenching or grinding at night, thus easing muscle tension.
If the non-invasive treatment options do not reduce your pain or tenderness more invasive procedures can be tried at your doctor’s office. Options such as cortisone shots can help relieve inflammation and pain. A small percentage of patients require jaw joint replacement surgery to replace the jaw joint with an artificial implant.
Schedule a consultation with your doctor to discuss your TMD treatment options!