Temporomandibular Joint DisorderTemporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) describes a variety of conditions that affect jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints and nerves associated with chronic facial pain. Symptoms may occur on one or both sides of the face, head or jaw, or develop after an injury. TMD affects more than twice as many women than men.
What Causes TMD?Trauma to the jaw or jaw joint sometimes plays a role in TMD, but in most cases the cause of the disorder is unknown. Most experts suggest that certain tasks, either mental or physical, may cause or aggravate TMD, such as stressful situations. Most discomfort is caused from overuse of the muscles, specifically clenching or grinding teeth (bruxism). These excessive habits tire the jaw muscles and lead to discomfort, such as headaches or neck pain.
How to Treat TMDThe majority of cases can be treated by unloading (resting) the joint, taking a non-aspirin pain reliever and practicing stress management and relaxation techniques. Most treatment for TMD is simple, often can be done at home, and does not need surgery. For example, control clenching or grinding during the day by sticking your tongue between your teeth. Eating soft foods and avoiding chewing gum also help relax the muscles.
Most people will experience relief with minor treatment. More severe cases may be treated with physical therapy, ice and hot packs, posture training and orthopedic appliance therapy (splint, or bite guard).
Symptoms of TMD
- Jaw pain or soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon
- Jaw pain when you chew, bite or yawn
- Clicking when opening and closing your mouth
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
- Locked or stiff jaw when you talk, yawn or eat
- Sensitive teeth when no dental problems can be found
- An earache without an infection