The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint which links the lower jawbone to the skull. Millions of Americans complain of experiencing pain in the jaws, face, neck and also of recurring headaches. All this could be a result of Temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
The temporomandibular joints will be extensively used throughout the day, as they experience movement when you bite, chew, talk, swallow, yawn, etc. All these activities could put pressure on the TMJ and lead to TMD.
What are the causes of TMD?
- Excessive pressure applied to the TMJ when you clench your teeth.
- Extensive movement of soft tissues near the ball and socket of the joint.
- Stress in the facial and jaw muscles.
- Any injury to the TMJ caused due to external trauma.
What are the symptoms of TMD?
- Prolonged pain in the TMJ, the facial muscles and the muscles around the jawbone.
- Pain in the ears. Sometimes, you may also experience a ringing sound in the ears.
- Recurring headaches and pain in the neck.
- Feeling of uneasiness when you move your jaw. You may hear a popping or clicking sound when you move your jaw.
- Limited movement of the lower jaw. Sometimes, you may have a locked jaw.
- The tissues around the temporomandibular joint may swell up, which could, in turn, make the face look swollen.
- You may experience sudden convulsions (spasms) in the jaws.
- If the condition of TMD becomes severe, you may experience a change in the alignment of the lower jaw.
If you experience any of the above-stated symptoms, you must consult your dentist immediately so that a thorough examination is done to determine the extent of TMD. A suitable treatment plan will be set up to treat the condition.
How can TMD be controlled?
A few remedial steps can be taken at home to reduce the effect of TMD and prevent it from occurring frequently. They are listed below:
- Relaxing the facial muscles is very important. A simple method that you should remember is 'Lips together, teeth apart'. This would prevent excessive pressure from being applied to the jaw muscles due to clenching of the teeth.
- Avoid chewing gum and frequent snacking.
- Maintaining a proper posture by sitting straight, with your head up and shoulders squared.
- Avoid grinding your teeth.
- Holding a phone between your head and your shoulder while conversing could apply uneven pressure on your neck and facial muscles. Instead, headphones could be used.
- Chewing food only on one side of the mouth should be avoided.
In addition to these, you can get a customized dental appliance from your dentist which would help in treating the underlying tissues which cause the condition of TMD. The appliance wouldn't interfere with your daily activities and would be easy to use.