The temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-mun-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. TMJ disorders (TMD) can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control movement of your jaw.
TMD is the second most common cause of orofacial pain (First being dental pain ie. toothache). TMD affects about 20% to 30% of adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. It affects twice as many women as it does men. There are many causes and symptoms of TMD. This makes determining the exact cause of TMD hard. The reason for discomfort can be a combination of one or more symptoms.
Reasons for TMD pain:
- Wear and tear of the cartilage within TMJ
- A dislocated TMJ
- Clenching or grinding, known as Bruxism, is one of the most common causes of TMD
- A misaligned bite or malocclusion
- Injury to the jaw
Symptoms coupled with TMD:
- Pain in the jaw joint
- Facial pain
- Earache or pain
- Headaches or Migraines
- Tingling in the fingers
- Neck, shoulder and back pain
- Carpel tunnel syndrome
Specially trained dentists, physical therapists, psychologists and physicians are the best source for proper diagnosis and management of TMD (Orofacial pain).
Since there is no known cure for TMD, the goal is to manage TMD. Many treatments are available, but not one procedure is a widely accepted treatment. For most, the pain and discomfort associated with TMD can be eased with conservative therapies (self-care or nonsurgical treatments) such as:
- Medicines (Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants are often recommended initially)
- Physical/massage therapy (Retraining, stretching, relaxing and massaging your muscles can sometimes increase circulation and reduce muscle spasms)
- Stress management and relaxation techniques (Consciously slowing your breathing and taking deep, regular breaths can help relax tense muscles to reduce pain)
- Biofeedback (Electronic devices monitor the tightness of specific muscles to help you practice effective relaxation techniques)
- Orthopedic appliances (orthotics) (Professionally-made custom night guards decrease clenching and grinding, allowing muscles to relax, lightening the load on jaw joints)
- Acupuncture (Thin hair-like needles are inserted at specific locations on your body by a specialist trained in acupuncture)
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Eating a soft food diet, applying ice packs, self-massage, taking hot showers and stretching has been known to help those who suffer with TMD.
Conservative therapy is safe and effective. It should always be tried first and given enough time to work. Over 50% of TMD patients treated with conservative therapy succeed in long-term relief of TMD.
Severe TMD cases may require aggressive (irreversible) therapy. Extensive dental treatment, orthodontic treatment, Botox trigger point injections or surgical repair are considered aggressive therapy. Aggressive therapy is designed to permanently change the bite or reposition the jaw with orthodontics or dental reconstruction. Many believe it should be avoided.
If aggressive treatment for TMD is recommended, get a reliable second opinion. A second opinion will help you gain confidence that aggressive therapy is right for your condition.
It’s important that you educate yourself about managing your TMD. There are many different treatments for the management of TMD. They are not all science-based. We strongly advise that you use caution when looking for professional help. Ask the right questions. Look for the help of a dental practitioner who is qualified in the area of TMD. Dental practitioners who have completed postgraduate programs in Oral Medicine or Orofacial Pain are the most qualified in the area of TMD diagnosis and pain management.
At Sherwood Dental, we favor conservative, reversible treatments over aggressive, non-reversible procedures. We usually refer out for aggressive types of treatment such as Botox trigger point injections.
Do you suffer with jaw pain caused by TMD? Are you ready to take the next step toward healing? For proper diagnosis and treatment of TMD, call Sherwood Dental at (780) 464-4166 for an appointment today.
Resources For Further Information On TMD –
- The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research – http://www.nidcr.nih.gov
- The American Association of Dental Research – http://www.aadronline.org
- The TMJ Association – http://www.tmj.org
The American Association of Dental Research (AADR) regarding Temporomandibular Disorders (TMDs) concludes: “It is strongly recommended that, unless there are specific and justifiable indications to the contrary, treatment of TMD patients initially should be based on the use of conservative, reversible and evidence-based therapeutic modalities. Studies of the natural history of many TMDs suggest that they tend to improve or resolve over time. While no specific therapies have been proven to be uniformly effective, many of the conservative modalities have proven to be at least as effective in providing symptomatic relief as most forms of invasive treatment. Because those modalities do not produce irreversible changes, they present much less risk of being harmful. Professional treatment should be augmented with a home care program, in which patients are taught about their disorder and how to manage their symptoms.”