woman with TMJ disorder

What do earaches, dizziness, and jaw pain have in common? They all are common symptoms of temporomandibular disorders– more widely known as TMD. What exactly is TMD? First of all, it’s not a single condition. Instead, TMD refers to a variety of disorders associated with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The temporomandibular joint has an important job; it connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. The TMJ is also responsible for your ability to talk, chew, and yawn. When problems occur with this joint and the surrounding muscles, it’s referred to as TMD. Although millions of Americans suffer from various temporomandibular disorders, many are still unaware of the associated symptoms and the treatment options available.

What causes TMD?

While a definitive cause of TMD has yet to be identified, there are several possible culprits, including:

Injury. Because TMD likely arises from problems with the jaw muscles or the temporomanidbular joint, it seems obvious that injuries to the jaw, TMJ, head, or neck could potentially lead to temporomandibular disorders.

Bruxism. Chronic clenching or grinding of the teeth puts pressure on the temporomandibular joint, which could result in problems with the joint, ultimately leading to TMD.

Stress. When feeling stressed, many people tend to clench their teeth or tense their facial and jaw muscles. Thus, chronic stress might potentially result in TMD.

What are the symptoms of TMD?

Countless Americans unknowingly suffer from TMD. Being aware of the symptoms allows patients to seek treatment earlier, thereby preventing long-term consequences of TMD. Some of the most common symptoms include:

Restricted range of motion. Often, sufferers of TMD experience difficulty getting the mouth to open wide.

Unusual sounds— such as clicking or popping– when opening the mouth or chewing food.

“Lock-jaw”. Sometimes, people who suffer from TMD report that their jaw locks or gets stuck when opening and closing the mouth.

Difficulty eating. Many patients who suffer from TMD experience some difficulty while eating. Often, this is because they feel that their top and bottom teeth no longer fit together appropriately.

Pain. It’s not surprising that one of the most common symptoms of TMD is a feeling of pain or tenderness in the jaw, facial muscles, neck, and shoulders.

Ear issues. While it might seem odd to associate TMD with ear problems, they often go hand in hand. Patients with TMD sometimes report ear pain, difficulty hearing, and even tinnitus– otherwise known as a ringing in the ears.

How is TMD treated?

Depending on what’s likely causing your TMD, your dentist will devise an appropriate treatment plan. Potential treatment options include:

Medication. There are a variety of prescription medications that might be used to treat TMD. Medications to reduce pain and swelling are sometimes prescribed. Your dentist might also recommend a muscle relaxer if your TMD is likely the result of chronic teeth clenching. Other pharmaceutical treatment options include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, which are used to treat anxiety and chronic stress.

Dental guard. Your dentist might recommend a dental guard to help protect your teeth from the effects of bruxism. There are both nighttime and daytime guards available, depending on when you typically clench and grind.

Dental work. Sometimes, some restorative dental work is needed to treat TMD. Your dentist might recommend replacing missing teeth with implants or bridges. He might also recommend treatment– in the form of braces, crowns, or bridges– to correct a bite problem.

If you think you might be suffering from TMD, please contact us today to learn how we can help. We look forward to hearing from you!