Two joints are connecting the jawbone to the skull. These bones are called temporomandibular joints or TMJ. These joints are between the temporal bone of the skull and the mandible. The temporomandibular joint allows people to move their jaw up and down and to the sides. It also enables talking, chewing, yawning, and other movements. But problems with the jaw and the muscles controlling the face can arise, potentially leading to temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
TMD is usually characterized by pain and restricted mandibular movements. Although not life-threatening, TMD affects the quality of life as symptoms can become difficult to manage.
The Causes of TMD
In truth, dentists perceive that the symptoms of TMD arise from complications with parts of the joint or the muscles of the jaw. Injury to the muscles of the neck, head, joint, or jaw which are acquired from whiplash or heavy blow can lead to this condition. On the other hand, other causes compose of:
- Arthritis in the joint
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth (puts more pressure on the joint)
- Stress or anxiety (can cause you to grind your teeth or tighten facial and jaw muscles)
- Movement of the disc or soft cushion between the ball and socket of the joint
TMD is often indicated by severe discomfort or pain that can be temporary or last for many years. It can also affect one or both sides of the face. This may affect one or both sides of a person’s face. This condition is more common to people between 20 and 40 years of age. Likewise, this is more common in women than men.
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint region, neck, shoulders, face, and/or the ear when the mouth is open wide or during activities that require opening the mouth such as eating and speaking.
- Locked jaw or jaw stiffness
- A clicking, cracking, or grating sound or sensation in the joint area when the mouth is opened or closed
- Tired feeling in the face
- Uncomfortable bite
- Inflammation on the side of the face
How is TMD treated?
To correctly diagnose the disorder, a physical examination must be conducted. The exam can also help determine the probable cause of TMD.
The dentist will have to check the patient’s jaw joints for TMD indications, test the bite, and search for problems with the facial muscles. A full X-ray might also be done to view the jaws, TMJ, and teeth. In some cases, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computer tomography (CT) might be recommended to properly see the position of the TMJ disc as the jaw moves and the details of the joint.
The dentist might also suggest seeing an oral surgeon for further assessment and treatment.
Preventing Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
Stop grinding teeth. Teeth grinding places heavy pressure on the jaw. Thus, this can cause further pain for current TMD sufferers or may even trigger its start. That said, those who grind their teeth should speak to a dental professional about getting a mouthguard to help protect both their teeth and their jaw.
Managing stress levels. Those who grind their teeth and/or have TMD often have high stress or anxiety levels. Emotional or mental complications alone cause tense muscles and joints. Even in the worst of TMD cases, eliminating sources of stress may significantly help with the symptoms.
Relax facial muscles. Stressed or not, some individuals have difficulty relaxing their facial muscles, increasing the chances of TMD of developing. Seeking therapy to learn how to relax facial muscles, practicing muscle relaxation techniques, or opting for facial massages can help one prevent or eliminate their TMD.
Avoid chewing gum and other very chewy foods. Chewing gum or consuming thick and sticky foods can strain and thus place unnecessary pressure on the jaw and teeth. Foods might include caramel candies, fruit snacks, dried fruit, beef jerky, and granola bars.
Overall, TMD may be prevented, reduced, or even eliminated with the proper dental, mental, and physical help to reduce strain, pressure, and clenching of the jaw and facial muscles.
It is essential that one seeks the help they need to tackle or avoid TMD as this may cause severe difficulty with eating, speaking, and the like.