What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, develops when uneven stress or strain puts excessive pressure on the joints of your jaw, causing your muscles and joints to become irritated and inflamed. The teeth on your upper and lower jaws typically work in pairs, so when you chew or bite down, the pressure on your joints should be distributed evenly. TMD can occur when this pressure becomes uneven, for example, if crooked or missing teeth cause you to have an uneven bite balance. Chronic tooth grinding (bruxism) can also cause or contribute to TMD.
What Are The Symptoms of TMD?
As your jaw joints become more inflamed and irritated, you may develop persistent jaw pain and chronic headaches. You could also experience clicking or “popping” noises when you chew, as well as muscle spasms, facial or neck pain, and hearing difficulties such as ringing sensations or “stuffiness” in your ears. Sometimes, your jaw can temporarily “lock” in an open position after you’ve yawned or opened your mouth very wide. TMD rarely resolves on its own, and unless it gets properly treated, its symptoms can grow much more severe over time.
Are There Other Causes For Jaw Pain?
Yes. While TMD is a common cause of persistent jaw pain, it’s not the only one. Other possible reasons for jaw pain can include tooth decay, infections and abscesses, gum disease, cancer, and other issues. If you are experiencing jaw pain, the best way to identify the underlying cause and find relief is to see your orthodontist as soon as possible for an evaluation.
How Is TMD Treated?
In treating a case of temporomandibular joint disorder, your orthodontist will focus finding ways to realign and re-balance your teeth and bite in order to reduce uneven strain on the jaw joints. Some symptoms of TMD may be reduced with certain exercises, medications, or mouth guards designed to hold the jaws in proper alignment. Other treatment options may include orthodontic care or the replacement of missing teeth, which can help to correct the underlying problem and thus provide long-term relief.