Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD)
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD) covers a range of conditions affecting the jaw joints. These joints, located just in front of the ears, are effectively the hinges by which the jaws move, and disorders can affect facial movements, speech and chewing ability.
Do you suffer from:
- Sore jaws
- Neck or shoulder pain
- Headache or facial pain
- Jaw clicking or locked jaw
- Unusual sounds, such as clicking, popping, or grating sounds during jaw movement
- Pain while chewing, yawning, or talking
- Broken, worn, or missing teeth, fillings
TMD patients often complain of severe pain or discomfort. While this may be temporary, often it may last for many years. Although common in the general population throughout life, TMD affects more females, and is most prevalent between ages 20-40.
Causes of TMD
- Grinding or clenching teeth, which results in excess pressure in the joint
- Movement of the disc (which cushions) the joints
- Stress, which results in tightening of facial muscles and clenching of teeth
- Previous injury to the joints
What can be done?
As with all dental conditions, suitable time needs to be allowed to assess the condition of your teeth and jaws in relation to a possible TMD diagnosis. While certain cases will require referral to specialists in the fields of oral medicine or oral surgery, many show improvement in a general dental setting.
We usually start with basic home remedies such as:
- Make chewing less of a strain on the joints by sticking to soft foods, eating slowly, avoiding hard, chewy, or crunchy foods and cutting food into small pieces
- Use of ice or heat packs
- Avoid repetitive or extreme jaw movements, such as may be caused by chewing gum, or yawning
- Relaxation techniques
- Practice keeping teeth slightly apart
- Pain killers or muscle relaxants
What about a splint or night guard?
A splint or night guard may be beneficial in many TMD patients. These are usually plastic arches placed over the upper or lower teeth, so as your teeth will not be in contact. This reduces the effects of grinding or clenching and can also act as a posturing device. This is made from professionally taken impressions or moulds of your mouth. It is important that not only both impressions are accurate, but a record of jaw posture be made, as poor posture may result in worsening of TMD symptoms.
Other dental damage
Long-term grinding or clenching habits usually cause visible damage to teeth or fillings. Teeth can crack or split and result in extreme pain. With missing teeth, chewing being favoured on one side, resulting in uneven strain on joints and therefore replacement teeth may be a consideration. As with any dental damage, the earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the less complicated and therefore less expensive the outcome is likely to be.
Could this be me?
Many TMD patients have a long-term facial and jaw pain which has a negative impact on their general well-being. They are often worried about their teeth wearing down but do not know where to begin.
If this sounds like you, give us a call!