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Across America there are millions that are suffering from chronic facial and neck pain, in addition to headaches. What most of them don’t know is that it could be caused by Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD.

What is the Temporomandibular Joint?

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is what connects the lower jawbone (mandible) to the skull, and is constantly in use throughout the day. It is unique to other joints in the body because it has a hinge and sliding motion, and the tissues attached also differ from other joints in the body. These features, with the high degree of movement, make the TMJ very complex and hard to repair for doctors when something goes wrong with it.

Dealing with TMJ Discomfort

Many people have discomfort in various joints of their body, so when they feel it in their jaw, they don’t think much of it and just try to live with it, either ignoring or managing with NSAIDs or other medicines. Sometimes the discomfort comes in cycles or just goes away after short periods of time. If the discomfort is constant, or grows into a significant long-term issue though, a dentist or orthodontist should be consulted in case it is TMD.

If you are suffering from possible symptoms of TMD, you may be wondering what you can do about it, how to properly diagnose it, and how to treat the disorder. TMD is a relatively new disorder, so there are still a lot of questions needing to be answered by researchers, but one key thing is that you should avoid any procedures that can cause permanent changes in your bite or jaw, as they could make things worse.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

The cause of TMD is still being heavily researched, it can sometimes be caused by trauma to the jaw, but there are just so many possibilities and scientists haven’t been able to narrow down the general cause. The condition is statistically more prevalent in women compared to men. Most often TMD starts without any obvious reason; research disputes the cause being related to bad bite, orthodontic braces, or jaw noises.

TMJ Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of TMD can include:

● Jaw muscle stiffness,

● Jaw movement limitations, or locking

● Painful clicking, or other noises in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth,

● Change in jaw alignment

● Radiating pain in the face, jaw or neck.

TMJ Disorder Diagnosis

There is no current TMD standard test, so health care providers will take note of all symptoms, including dental and medical history, or do imaging studies to determine whether or not you could have TMD. Often ruling out other symptoms will help narrow the diagnosis down to TMD.

TMJ Disorder Treatment

There is no widely accepted safe or effective treatment of TMD at the moment. If you do have TMD, make sure that any treatments that are attempted are non-permanent, as permanent surgeries could cause long-term disability. There are many things you can do at home to reduce the effects of TMD, such as: eating soft food, using ice packs, minimize extreme jaw movements, relaxation techniques, and jaw exercises. If the pain is an issue, you can use over-the-counter NSAIDS such as ibuprofen to manage the pain, and if it gets to be too much you can request stronger medication from your healthcare provider. Stabilization splints may be recommended but they should only be used for short lengths of time to avoid permanent changes in your bite.

Are You Suffering from the Possible Signs of TMD?

If you are dealing with jaw pain and headaches or other symptoms of TMD, book an appointment with McLean Healthy Smiles today to get checked out.

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