Millions of Americans suffer from chronic facial and neck pain and recurring headaches. In some cases, this pain is due to Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD. Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect your lower jawbone to your skull. These joints get used throughout the day as you speak, chew, swallow, and yawn. Pain in and around these joints can be unpleasant and even restrict movement.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF TMD?
There are several symptoms that patients may experience when they have TMD. Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the jaw.
- Clicking when they move their jaw.
- A locked or limited jaw movement.
- Swelling on the side of their face.
- Muscle spasms in the jaw.
TMJ is located under the ears, so many patients experience symptoms such as pain, ringing, or stuffiness in their ears. Some patients experience headaches and neck aches. Lastly, you may notice that the alignment of your top and bottom teeth has changed. It is important to note all of your symptoms and discuss them with your dentist, Dr. Montoya or Dr. Lai, during your appointment at Boulder Dental Designs.
HOW DOES TMD HAPPEN?
Dysfunction of your temporomandibular joint can happen with excessive or improper use of your jaw. Common causes of TMD are grinding or clenching your teeth, excessive movement of the jaw, and arthritis. Patients who experience frequent stress are more likely to have TMD because people often grind or clench their teeth during stressful situations. Even if you do not rub your teeth during the day, people with increased stress may grind their teeth at night while they sleep. Patients that chew an excessive amount of gum can also overuse their TMJ and cause TMD. Lastly, patients that have arthritis in their joints may also experience TMD.
HOW CAN I PREVENT TMD?
There are a few simple steps you can take at home or work to prevent TMD from becoming more severe or to prevent it from occurring. As mentioned above, this can happen due to stress and clenching of your face or grinding of your teeth. Our dentists recommend that you remember to relax your face during stressful situations, such as driving in traffic.
We also recommend repeating the saying “lips together, teeth apart.” This is a simple way to help you remember to relax your face and jaw. Another way to prevent TMD is to avoid excessive gum chewing and chew evenly on both sides of your mouth. Excessive or uneven chewing can irritate the muscles in your jaw. Lastly, it is essential to practice good posture. Hold it in your hand instead of resting it between your head and shoulder when using the phone.
Additionally, avoid resting your chin on your hand. Good overall posture is important too. Keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared. Following these simple steps can help you prevent TMD from developing.
HOW TO TREAT TMD
There are several ways to treat it, from over-the-counter pain medications to adjusting your diet to surgery. When you are first diagnosed your dentist from Boulder Dental Designs may recommend over-the-counter pain medications, stress reduction techniques, and switching to a soft diet. All of these actions can help your jaw rest and recover.
Your dentist may also recommend a nightguard if you grind your teeth at night. This often does not fix the TMD, but it protects your teeth from becoming worn down by grinding. If you are interested in the different TMD treatments, contact Boulder Dental Designs today.
TMD can be an uncomfortable disease process, and the dentists at Boulder Dental Designs are here to help you. At our office, we can diagnose and treat TMD. For more information about or to schedule an appointment, call our office today.