The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint connecting the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull typically just in front of the ear. It is required for talking, chewing, yawning and other daily activities. When this joint experiences dysfunction, the condition is referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). TMD can cause a variety of symptoms that interfere with routine daily activities.
What Causes TMD?
TMD can be caused by a variety of factors. These include poor posture, jaw misalignment, or bruxism (teeth grinding). Other causes can include stress and anxiety, infection, arthritis, and aging.
Symptoms of TMD
Common symptoms of TMD include:
- Jaw pain: pain or tenderness around your jaw that may spread to your face and neck.
- Jaw popping: limited jaw movement that may include clicking or grinding noises.
- Earache: pain or ringing in the ears that may be accompanied by hearing loss.
- Headache: pain in the forehead or temples that may be caused by jaw tension.
Treatment for TMD
Treatments for TMD vary depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Common treatments for TMD include:
- Gentle exercises: exercises such as chewing gum to relax the jaw muscles.
- Medication: over-the-counter pain relievers or muscle relaxants to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Stress management: relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and massage to reduce emotional tension.
- Mouthguard: custom-fit night guards to be worn during sleep to protect against teeth-grinding and clenching.
- Surgery: in severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair damage or reconstruct the joint.
In order to prevent TMD, it is important to take steps to maintain good oral health. This includes brushing and flossing daily, avoiding hard or chewy foods, and getting regular dental checkups and cleanings. Additionally, practicing good posture, avoiding stress, and getting adequate rest helps to reduce tension in the jaw.
If you think you may have symptoms of TMD it is important to seek the advice of your primary healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can refer you to a TMJ specialist who can assess your condition and determine the best course of treatment. Taking care of your TMJ is important when it comes to overall oral health and general health.