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June 27 2010

Help with Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

Jaw discomfort and pain is the most common type of musculoskeletal discomfort after low back pain, affecting about 20 million Americans. Not surprisingly, it is even known as a painful sounding name: Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).

The jaw hinge connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone on both sides of the head. Oftentimes this joint hurts, clicks, and/or locks painfully. Jaw muscles can become sore, which makes it very difficult to chew. Pain may radiate to the muscles of the face and neck muscles, the head, ears, and teeth; it may continue 24/7.

Causes and controversies

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There are lots of theories regarding the possible causes of TMD. Some of the more common ones are injury to the jaw or jaw joint arthritis. Genes might also play a role. Some dentists attribute this to grinding or clenching the teeth aka “bruxism”, in particular at night, or dislocation of the disk that cushions the jaw joint. Emotional stress is oftentimes cited as a cause of both teeth grinding and TMD. Gum chewing, nail biting, and eating chewy foods or crunchy candies might also contribute, as may poor posture, in particular thrusting the chin forward, which can stress the neck and jaw muscles. TMD is difficult to diagnose and treat, in all likelihood because it could be a one of a variety problems that vary from person to person.

Step 1 – Self Care

Use simple pain relief medication; use varying temperature compresses to the jaw. Massage your jaw muscles and temples.

Consume soft foods; eat by taking smaller bites. Eliminate hard and chewy foods, such as dried fruit, for a while. Do not chew gum.

Try to do some gentle jaw stretches. Carefully and slowly open and close your mouth. Let your jaw hang slightly when you are not eating, swallowing, or conversing.

Professional Care – The Next Step

If any pain persists, call your dental professional. previously, correcting malocclusion (teeth that don’t fit together as they were intended) by grinding down a few tooth surfaces was thought to be a beneficial treatment, but more recent research indicates it may not help TMD too much. Though its benefits for TMD are also questioned, mouth splints (worn while sleeping) may help steady the bite and eliminate nocturnal tooth grinding. If you try a splint, a low-cost sport mouth guard might function as well as a customized device.

If worry is adding to your TMD, then professional guidance could possibly help. TMD may respond well to merely understanding how to relax, biofeedback, and diversion counseling. Quite a few experiments find that traditional chinese medicine are also able to help at least in the short term.

TMD may improve with time and go away on its own. If it does not, a referral to an orofacial pain management center or TMD clinic affiliated with a hospital or university might be the next best step. Find the the proper medical specialists and receive the assistance you can.