Do you suffer from chronic jaw, face, shoulder, head, or neck pain? This may be caused by a temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD. The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are located on either side of your head, just in front of your ears. The TMJ connect your mandible (jawbone) to your skull and are considered one of the most complex joints in the body. This joint, in combination with other muscles and ligaments, lets you chew, swallow, speak and yawn. When you have a problem with the muscle, bone or other tissue in the area in and around the TMJ, you may have a TMD.
Pain and tenderness in or around the ear, the jaw joint, or the muscles of the jaw, face or temples can be symptoms of a TMD. Others are problems opening or closing your mouth, and a clicking, popping, crunching or grinding noise when you chew, or open your mouth. TMDs may be linked with neck pain and headaches. If you have any of these symptoms, consult your dentist and your doctor.
In most cases, TMDs are caused by factors like jaw injuries and joint disease. It is believed that bruxism (tooth clenching or grinding) and head or neck muscle tension may worsen TMD symptoms. Stress is also a possible factor.
To help ease sore jaw muscles, place a cold or warm compress to your jaw and gently massage your jaw muscles. Eat a soft diet, cut food into small pieces and avoid hard, chewy or sticky foods. Try not to open your mouth too wide, even when you yawn, and most importantly, try to relax your jaw muscles and not clench them.
After a thorough examination and x-rays, your dentist may suggest a plan to treat your TMD. This may include relaxation techniques and a referral to a physiotherapist or behavioural therapist to help you ease muscle pain. Other treatment options may include medicine for pain and inflammation. Your dentist may also suggest wearing a night guard that fits over the biting surfaces of the teeth of one jaw so that you bite against the splint rather than your teeth. This often helps your jaw joints and muscles to relax while you sleep.
If the pain continues, your dentist may refer you to a dental specialist in oral medicine or orofacial pain, an oral surgeon, an orthodontist, a periodontist or a prosthodontist for further specialized treatment. Surgery is rarely used to treat TMDs, however, if none of the other treatments have worked, your dentist may refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon with expertise in temporomandibular joint surgery.
If you think you may be suffering from a TMD you can call us at (647) 794-1108 to help.