Temporomandibular Joints pain, or TMJ, is medically referred to as TMD, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. These joints are located that the side of your head and make up your Jaw bone. These joints control the way you chew, speak and yawn. When these joints are not working properly, TMD occurs. This can cause a great amount of pain since these joints affect all area of your face. This disorder can also inhibit the ability to communicate effectively and can cause many challenges in the workplace and society if left untreated.
The exact cause of TMD is yet to be determined, but dentists do know that it is a temporary disorder, although lasting years in some cases. The disorder shows up most often in women and young people between the ages of 20-40 years old. Research has shown that TMD is most likely caused by several factors that can contribute to the dysfunction or injury of the joints and jaw such as:
- Teeth grinding
- Clenching your jaw during times of stress or anxiety
- Dislocating the jaw do to trauma or injury
Facial pain is the most obvious indicator of possible TMD; however, that pain can also go down your throat, shoulders and leave you with the inability to open your mouth. Many people suffering with TMJ pain also experience lock jaw, popping sounds when they open their mouth, swelling, headaches, earaches and dizziness. Some of these symptoms can occur concurrently so getting checked out immediately by a dentist is necessary.
Treatment is fairly simple with surgery being an absolute last resort. Most cases of TMJ pain can be relieved through wearing a night guard on your mouth, trigger point injections, and physical therapy. There is also a technique called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, that can be used for severe cases.
Patients will want to make sure that they use their jaw as little as possible so that there is no added stress on their joints that can prolong or irritate symptoms. Try to avoid becoming overly stressed, anxious or worried since people tend to clench their jaw in these circumstances. Wear your night guard every night to avoid teeth grinding and eat soft foods that do not require as much chewing such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pudding, yogurt and cottage cheese. Do not drink from a straw and take a mild pain relieve like Tylenol or ibuprofen for discomfort.
TMD can have very serious impact on the rest of your health if left untreated. Lack of sleep, poor oral health including tooth deterioration from grinding and chronic headaches and migraines are some of the most common ailments that people with TDM suffer from.
Eating disorders, depression, and malnutrition can also become prevalent due to the inability to eat a diverse range of food. As long as those suffering from TMD go to a dentist at the onset of symptoms, treatment and relief should be quick and easy in most cases.