Temporomandibular Joint Disorders – problems with your jaw or bite – is more common than you think. Here are the symptoms to look out for, and what you can do if you have TMD.
The Temporomandibular joint is perhaps better known as the jaw joint. It’s where your jaw bone (mandible) connects to the side of your head (the temporal bone). It’s actually two joints that work together as one.
Possible symptoms for TMD:
- Frequent headaches
- Clicking or popping jaw joints
- Pain when chewing or yawning
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Worn teeth
- Teeth not touching when you bite (Malocclusion)
- Stiffness in your jaw joints that makes it difficult to open or to close your mouth, particularly in the morning
Keep in mind that all of these symptoms could stem from other issues entirely, and having one or several of these doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a temporomandibular joint disorder.
TMD can be caused by a number of things. It could be a natural dysfunction that you’re born with, it can come from being stressed, angry or anxious, or it can come from external causes like head trauma.
Some people live with jaw pain and the other symptoms that come with it for years before seeking help, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s what you can do:
As with other aches and pains, ice packs can also help with TMD. Ice cubes in a plastic bag or frozen vegetables do the trick as well. Place on the affected area for 10 minutes at a time, as often as needed.
If biting and chewing causes you pain, or makes the existing pain worse, it would be wise to place yourself on a soft food diet temporarily and see if that helps you. You can still enjoy most of what you eat now, but avoid the harder and tougher things like chewy meat, chewing gum, raw vegetables, chips, caramel, hard bread and apples.
The most important thing you should do is seek help from a professional. Make an appointment with your dentist and explain your symptoms and concerns. Your dentist will be able to make an assessment, and could refer you to a specialist if they believe the problem is serious enough.