Temporomadibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your skull and allows free movement of your jaw for eating, speaking, drinking, and yawning. When you experience TMD (temporomandibular disorder), that joint is compromised in some way, causing facial and neck pain, discomfort in your jaw, and in some cases, severe, recurring headaches.
Your temporomandibular joints get a lot of use throughout the day and pain in and around these joints can be extremely unpleasant, distracting, and may even inhibit movement.
Many people who have TMD first notice it when they hear a clicking or popping sound at the jaw as they open and close their mouth. Other symptoms can include pain in your jaw, ears, face, or neck; frequent headaches or neck aches; muscle spasms along the jaw; change in alignment of top and bottom teeth; locked jaw or a sudden limited movement of the jaw.
These symptoms do not always indicate that you have TMD, however, if you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, talk about it with your dentist or orthodontist. Your doctor can help determine if you have TMD and create a customized treatment plan to help alleviate your pain.
Although the cause of TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine, common causes include clenching or grinding your teeth, genetics, arthritis, jaw misalignment, and jaw injury.
Orthodontic treatment of TMD depends on a number of factors including your overall health, medical history, and the extent of the disorder. If we find that you are a good candidate for orthodontic treatment of TMD, we may recommend a mouth guard to reduce tooth grinding (which can be a cause of TMD pain) and ongoing therapy such as TMD splints. Oral TMD splints relieve pain at the jaw by allowing the joints to decompress. TMD can also be treated with orthodontic tooth movement. By aligning the teeth and corresponding jaws, many times TMD can be alleviated while a beautiful smile is being achieved.
Other Treatment Options
Not all jaw pain is associated with TMD, and whether the cause of your pain is associated with TMD or not, these simple practices may help relieve discomfort:
- Relax your jaw whenever possible by allowing a small gap between your upper and lower teeth when at rest.
- Take steps to avoid grinding your teeth during the day or while you sleep.
- Don’t chew gum.
- Hold your phone to your ear instead of cradling it between your head and shoulder, pinching your neck
muscles in the process.
- Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth
- Don’t rest your chin on your hand while sitting at a table/desk.
- Practice good posture — keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared.
If you think you may be suffering from TMD or would like to talk about ways to reduce any pain you feel in your jaw, schedule a free consultation with our office.