What is TMD?

Temporomandibular disorder is defined as an incomplete, abnormal or impaired function of the temporomandibular jaw and the jaw muscles. This may limit the movement of the jaw from side to side and open and closed. This can then impact the eating, talking, and general comfort of the person.

What causes TMD?

The cause of TMD is not fully understood, however, there are a few identifiable causes that can cause TMD:
  • Trauma/Injury to the joint and surrounding muscles.
  • Stress can exacerbate existing problems with the jaw joint.
  • Grinding of the teeth.
  • Some malalignments of the jaw, such as an open bite, could contribute to TMD.

How to prevent TMD?

Due to the nature of TMD, it is often hard to anticipate, however, you can minimize the chance of undergoing TMD:
  • Maintaining your oral hygiene, brushing for two minutes twice a day. Flossing before brushing and after eating food.
  • Wearing a mouthguard at night to help limit the damage done by grinding the teeth.
  • When there is an injury in the jaw, have this assessed by a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
  • If you have a severe misalignment of your teeth and jaws, it is worth speaking to your dentist about whether it could be contributing to your TMD.
  • Massaging the jaw muscles.
  • Exercise caution, if food is extremely tough or chewy, it may be worth seeking an alternative that is less taxing on the jaw.

How to treat TMD?

TMD can come in phases, however, there are ways to ease the pain. You should stick to eating soft foods, using heat or ice packs to provide comfort to the pained area, gently massaging the area, and taking ibuprofen or paracetamol.

If you are grinding your teeth, your dentist may suggest a night guard to help prevent you from continuing to grind. Should the problems persist or if your dentist suspects a joint issue, your dentist may recommend seeing a specialist for further assessment. A specialist may wish to carry out further investigations, such as an ultrasound or MRI scan, before discussing further treatment options. Treatment could involve injections into the jaw which aim to wash the jaw joint and relieve inflammation. In severe cases, surgery may be advised.

How to spot TMD and what are the symptoms?

TMD can present itself with several symptoms, the most common are grinding, cracking and popping when moving the jaw, pain in the jaw when moving it, it can cause headaches and pain in the ears and throat. The discomfort may be a sharp pain or a dull ache, causing a lack of sleep and the feeling of tenderness in the affected area.

If you have ongoing issues with the symptoms stated it is recommended, you pursue an appointment with your dentist so a formal diagnosis can be made.

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