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, and Nomove 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 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 to 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.
Can Braces Cause TMD
While braces themselves do not directly cause TMD, they can potentially contribute to its development or exacerbation in some cases.
TMD often finds a cause in factors such as jaw muscle tension, jaw joint misalignment, or trauma to the jaw. Braces can indirectly affect the temporomandibular joint and associated muscles, leading to symptoms of TMD.
One way in which braces can impact the jaw joint is by altering the bite and increasing muscle tension and fatigue in the area. As the teeth are led into their correct positions, the bite may change, and the forces exerted on the jaw joint can change as well.
This change in the bite can result in an imbalance in the muscles and joints of the jaw, potentially leading to TMD symptoms such as jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, and difficulty in opening or closing the mouth.
The likelihood of experiencing TMD symptoms while wearing braces can vary depending on individual factors such as pre-existing jaw joint or muscle issues and the skill and expertise of the orthodontist.
Not everyone who undergoes orthodontic treatment will develop TMD. With proper diagnosis, monitoring, and management, the risk of TMD decreases considerably.
Can I Wear Braces or Invisalign With TMD?
Doctors consider wearing braces or Invisalign clear aligners with temporomandibular disorder (TMD) on a case-by-case basis, depending on the severity of the condition of the patient and the recommendations.
Before undergoing orthodontic treatment, it is crucial you consult with both an experienced orthodontist and a dentist who specializes in TMD.
In some instances, the orthodontist may delay or modify the treatment to accommodate the TMD condition. For individuals with mild TMD symptoms, orthodontic treatment can proceed as long as close monitoring and adjustments are part of the procedure.
In more severe cases of TMD, your Alpharetta orthodontist, and dentist may recommend addressing the TMD symptoms first before proceeding with orthodontic treatment.
You must maintain open communication with your Alpharetta orthodontist throughout the treatment process. Inform them of any changes in your Alpharetta TMD symptoms or any discomfort you experience.
Additional Treatments for TMD
Besides non-surgical treatments, there are surgical options available for TMD when conservative treatments fail to provide sufficient relief.
Surgical interventions may be necessary when there is a structural issue within the temporomandibular joint, making other treatment methods ineffective.
An experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon must evaluate any surgical options. Generally, surgical options for TMD allow quick recovery and low patient compliance after the intervention.
Arthrocentesis is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat TMD. During this procedure, an oral surgeon and maxillofacial surgeon insert small needles into the affected joint (TMJ).
The needles irrigate the joint with a sterile solution, which helps flush out inflammatory byproducts and debris, reducing pain and inflammation.
The surgeon may also use the needles to manipulate the joint and improve its mobility, and promote healing.
The oral surgeon will perform under local anesthesia, and the procedure generally has a shorter recovery period than other invasive surgical options.
This minimally invasive procedure involves inserting a thin tube with a camera into the joint space to visualize and diagnose any abnormalities.
Then, with additional small incisions, surgical instruments can correct structural problems, remove adhesions, or reduce inflammation within the joint.
Open-joint surgery may be necessary in more severe cases. This procedure involves making a larger incision to gain direct access to the joint. It allows for a more extensive examination and repair of the joint structures.
Various techniques can be part of an open-joint surgery, including joint repositioning, disc repair or replacement, bone grafts, or joint reconstruction.
Relaxation exercises can be an effective non-surgical approach to managing TMD symptoms. These exercises aim to reduce muscle tension and stress in the jaw area.
Examples of relaxation techniques include deep breathing exercises and progressive and muscle relaxation. These exercises promote overall relaxation of the body and can alleviate tension in the jaw muscles.
Have a consultation with a physical therapist experienced in TMD to learn proper relaxation exercises and receive guidance on their implementation.
How You Can Keep Your TMD Under Control
To keep your Temporomandibular Disorder under control, there are several tips and homecare practices you can use to alleviate calm symptoms.
Incorporating these habits into your daily routine can contribute to managing TMD effectively. However, these practices do not substitute specialized assistance and medical examination.
Apply Moist Heat or Cold Packs
Applying a moist heat pack or cold pack to the affected jaw area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Alternate between heat and cold therapy following your personal preference and what provides relief.
Avoid Excessive Jaw Movements
Minimize activities that require extensive jaw movements (this includes going too hard at karaoke), such as excessive gum chewing, biting hard objects, or wide yawning.
These actions can strain the jaw joint and exacerbate TMD symptoms.
Hard foods or chewy foods can cause discomfort, so avoid toffee, hard candies, gummies, corn on the cob, meat on the bone, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, peanuts), and similar.
Eat Soft Foods
Opt for softer, easier-to-chew foods to reduce the strain on your jaw joint and muscles. Incorporate a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to support overall oral health.
Soup is not the only soft food there is. Steamed vegetables, soft bread, shredded chicken, meat, fish or pork, ground beef, pasta, and mashed potatoes are only some of the many options you have.
Avoid Clenching and Grinding
Be mindful of clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, especially during stressful situations or while sleeping.
If you notice these habits, consider using a mouth guard or splint to protect your teeth and jaw joints. Why your teeth? Teeth grinding can damage your teeth as well. How can you avoid these habits? Read below.
Practice Stress Management
As you know, stress is a friend of nobody. It can contribute to jaw clenching and muscle tension, worsening TMD symptoms.
Engage in stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or hobbies to promote relaxation and alleviate jaw tension.
Seek Professional Guidance
Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a dentist or an oral and maxillofacial specialist, who specializes in TMD. They can provide personalized recommendations, prescribe appropriate treatments, and monitor your progress.
Get in Touch With a Professional Orthodontic Specialist in Alpharetta
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.