Millions of people suffer from chronic facial pain like headaches, jaw pain, or earaches. This pain might be associated with one or both of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). These joints are located on every side of the head and work together with a system of muscles, discs, ligaments, and bones to help with your chewing and speaking.
What is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)?
TMD refers to a variety of conditions that impact the TMJ, facial nerves, and jaw muscles. It takes place when the jaw twists during opening, closing, or side-motion movements. If you have this disorder, you may experience symptoms such as pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw or jaw muscles, headaches, neck aches, jaw pain, difficulty opening and closing your mouth, clicking or grating sounds in the jaw joints as well as teeth sensitivity. TMD is often due to arthritis, misaligned bites, and jaw dislocation or injury. But, experts say that stress can also be a factor in TMD. Stressful situations and physical tasks like lifting a heavy object can make TMD worse as the jaw muscles are overused.
Do diagnose a TMD, doctors should have a clear understanding of the causes and additional symptoms of the disorders that affect the TMJ and surrounding muscles. But, what makes it difficult to diagnose TMD is the fact that its symptoms are also characteristics of other conditions like sinus or ear infection, toothache, myofascial pain, or facial neuralgias.
Although there is no, widely-accepted, standard test to correctly identify TMD, doctors may require tests such as X-rays of the face, joint, and teeth, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) scans.
What to Do if you Have TMD
For most people, the symptoms of TMJ will go away on their own. Sufferers can employ self-care practices like exercising to decrease teeth-clenching due to stress to ease the symptoms of TMJ. Also, it’s important to visit a dentist to get conservative TMJ treatment.
Moreover, sufferers must avoid chewing gum as it can put a lot of pressure on the TMJ. Eating hard food like apples and bagels must also be avoided. When excessive stress is put through the jaw, the TMJ won’t be able to get the necessary rest they need for proper healing. Also, as teeth grinding can be a real problem for people with TMJ, it might be best to manage stress which is usually the cause of teeth clenching.