Jaw pain is a common complaint we receive at Arrowhead Dental, but what is the cause? While there are many possibilities, often it has something to do with your temporomandibular joints, or TMJ. These joints make it possible for you to open and close your mouth. Located on each side of your jaw, these joints allow you to chew, speak and swallow because they act like sliding hinges. They are the reason your lower jaw can move forward, backward and side to side.
The temporomandibular joints not only are joints but also consist of muscles, connective ligaments and bone. Each joint has a disc between the ball and socket that cushions the joint from the forces of your bite and enables your jaw to rotate, glide and open wide. When a problem arises within this complex system, it may result in TMD, or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.
What Is TMD?
TMD includes a wide range of dysfunctions that often overlap with other afflictions, making diagnosis and treatment somewhat challenging. Some of these dysfunctions include:
- Muscular problems that disrupt jaw mobility
- Jaws that get locked in the open or closed position
- Tenderness or pain in the face, specifically the jaw joint area, neck, ears or shoulders when you chew, speak or open your mouth
- Popping or clicking noises when you open or close your mouth
- Swelling of the jaw joint area
- Problems chewing or a painful bite
- Toothaches, headaches, earaches, dizziness or ringing in the ears
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you may have TMD. TMD is most common among patients between the ages of 20 and 45. It can be temporary or last for several years, depending on the severity. Also, symptoms can go away without treatment and return without warning. However, most problems, whether muscular or within the joint, typically get better over time.
Causes and Diagnosis of TMD
While the exact cause may be hard to determine, injury to your jaw, especially the muscles or joint itself, typically leads to TMD. Injury to the muscles of your head and neck can also lead to TMD. Other possible causes include arthritis, teeth grinding or clenching, damage to the temporomandibular disc, and stress-related habits that put unnecessary pressure on the joint.
To determine if you have TMD, Dr. Jordan Argyle, Dr. Jonathan Morgan or Dr. Greg Dover will examine the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking or popping noises, and difficulties with mobility. We will then ask you about your medical and dental histories to determine a possible cause. We may also use 3D imaging technology to view your jaws, joints and teeth to rule out other afflictions.
Treatment for TMD
Because TMD often goes away on its own, a conservative approach is usually the best method of treatment. Before we move forward with treatment, we will suggest eating softer foods, avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails, using heat pads on your neck, and practicing relaxation techniques. If discomfort persists, we may suggest certain medications or a plastic night guard. Anti-anxiety medications can help reduce or control stress-related habits that may lead to TMD. A night guard lessens the effects of nocturnal bruxism or teeth grinding and can even be used to put your teeth in a correct position.
Schedule Your Appointment
If you are experiencing jaw discomfort or think you may have TMD, please call Arrowhead Dental today at 307-789-5210 to schedule an appointment with our dentists and learn more about TMJ treatment in Evanston, Wyoming.