Your body is fantastic, and the parts making up your mouth are no exception. Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is essential to the many movements achieved by your jaws. Thanks to this joint, you can chew, open, move your jaws up and down and to the sides. However, many people report feeling discomfort or pain when performing these movements.
Some patients have injured the joint connecting their jaws, resulting in localized pain. Some people may be unaware that they suffer from the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) even after feeling pain around their ears or chewing.
The treatment for TMD is not the same for everyone, but we want to give our readers as much information as possible to identify these TMD symptoms. Remember to mention any of this to your orthodontist so they can help you overcome any disorders bringing you pain.
Why do I have TMD?
It is difficult to answer that question. Medical professionals still don’t have a full understanding of the origins of this condition. We are still unsure if some muscular or skeletal factors result in TMD or if TMD causes some of these muscular conditions. The medical community has identified some of the following as potential causes for TMD:
- Poor jaw alignment
- Poor posture
- Teeth grinding
You can also count genetics and trauma or damage to a patient’s jaw as a cause for TMD. However, because it is hard to pinpoint a single cause for this disorder, dental health professionals will need to examine your specific case before recommending any potential treatment to alleviate symptoms. Speaking of which:
How can I know if I have TMD or not?
When we started this discussion, we mentioned that this disorder affected a joint in your mouth. This joint is located just in front of your ear, and patients with TMD report feeling pain around that area.
The pain may originate directly over your pain and extend around the area. It is common for patients to mention they feel pain in their ears, down their necks, and as far up as their eyes and foreheads.
There are other, more worrying, symptoms. Make sure you mention it to your physician or orthodontist specialist when you go tor an appointment if you have any of the following:
- Clicking or popping of your jaws when you open or close them
- Locking of your jaws when you yawn
- Muscle spasms around your jaw
A professional like Dr. Nima Hajibaik will make sure to review your medical history and carefully examine your jaw movements. Dr. Nima is a board-qualified orthodontist, meaning he has extensive knowledge of your teeth and jaws’ proper positioning.
To better identify this disorder, your orthodontist may require advanced imaging like X-Rays or MRIs to spot any damage in a patient’s connective tissues as cartilage. Different specialists can confirm the diagnosis, including oral and maxillofacial specialists and ENT Doctors (ENT is short for Ear, Nose, and Throat, but they are officially called Otolaryngologists).
What an orthodontic specialist recommends to treat TMD
Our recommendations depend on the severity of your case. You must seek professional help to ensure you get the treatment you need to get better. We can give you some general recommendations on what to do.
Some cases of TMD can be treated only by focusing on relieving the patient from the symptoms. Other scenarios involve using appliances to help with your jaw alignment or preventing tooth grinding. Finally, some patients may need a surgical solution to overcome this disorder.
First of all, consider what you can do to reduce stress while improving your relaxation. If you have noticed feeling pain when you chew, you could try switching to eating soft foods and avoiding chewing gum. You can use ice packs to relieve persistent pain in any area we mentioned before, including ears, neck, shoulders, forehead, etc.
Try massages and gently stretching the affected areas. Getting professional help from a physical therapist may be in order. Still, if the pain continues for too long, you can take some over-the-counter painkillers or muscle-relaxing drugs.
In some cases, the patient may benefit from using mouthguards or a dental splint to maintain the teeth alignment and prevent tooth grinding. These appliances fit over your lower teeth and under your upper teeth to avoid friction.
In extreme cases, the patient may need to get injections of pain-relieving medications. Others could be subject to surgeries on their jaws. There are different surgical procedures ranging from outpatient procedures to invasive surgeries that require a hospital setting and extensive recovery periods. Ask your doctor to explain what is necessary in your case.
Get in touch with a professional orthodontic specialist.
Because every case is unique and the causes for temporomandibular joint disorder are not well-defined, you should consult with a professional if you believe you are suffering from TMD. You can do some things on your own to ease the discomfort and pain you feel when the disorder is not so advanced, but some patients may require urgent interventions to overcome these painful circumstances.
You can come to your next appointment filled with questions. Dr. Nima and the Newpark Orthodontics staff will do their best to help you treat any problems you have with your jaws or teeth.