Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is relatively common and often appears during times of stress. Your lower jaw is connected to your skull with temporomandibular joints, which allow you to chew and talk with ease. When these joints are damaged, you may struggle to open your mouth as wide as you were once able to, and your dentist may diagnose you with TMD. This article will explain the causes, symptoms and treatment options for TMD.
TMD can be caused by trauma to the jaw, but it's often brought on by frequent tightening of the facial muscles. You may find that you tighten your muscles during periods of stress or clench your teeth when you sleep. The increased pressure on your temporomandibular joints can cause them to swell up. TMD can also be caused osteoarthritis, so you should always have suspected TMD investigated and confirmed by a dentist.
Symptoms tend to be dependent on the severity of damage and can vary between individuals. You may find you experience symptoms constantly, or you may have intermittent symptoms. Common symptoms include headache, swelling around the joints, clicking noises when chewing food, facial pain and pain that worsens when chewing something tough.
There are a few treatment options available, and your dentist will discuss a treatment plan with you. The aim of treatment is to manage the symptoms, so resting your jaw joints and muscles is often recommended. This means eating only soft foods for several weeks in a bid to reduce the swelling around the joints. You may be asked to massage the muscles around your temporomandibular joints during this time.
A dental mouth guard may be recommended if the TMD is thought to have been caused by clenching your teeth together. The dentist will take a mould of your teeth and this will be used to create a custom-fitted mouth guard that should stop you from clenching and allow your muscles and joints to rest.
Steroid injections can be effective if you have osteoarthritis-induced TMD. Steroids reduce the swelling and can improve the range of movement in your jaw, but have to be repeated regularly to remain effective.
Joint replacement surgery is recommended as a last resort treatment when quality of life is considerably impaired by TMD and a person can no longer eat normally. You would require a referral to a maxillofacial surgeon, which your dentist would arrange.
TMD often gets better when you rest and develop new stress management techniques, but it can also worsen if ignored. If you're concerned about TMD, make an appointment with a dentist like Creative Dentistry for a thorough examination.