If you place your fingers just an inch in front of your ear hole, and open and close your mouth, you can feel something moving. This is a joint. The joint that is located on either side of the head is called the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint acts as a connection between the lower jawbone and the skull. This joint can move in many directions, it can move forward, backward, sideways and can even rotate, unlike in some animals where it can be used for only opening and closing movements like Dogs and crocodiles. This joint is one of the most complex joints in a human’s body and it works in combination with other bones to allow a person to perform functions like chewing, swallowing, talking and yawning. Any problem with the muscles, tissues or bones, in or around this joint, is called TMD, or Temporomandibular disorder.
Knowing The Problem
There are certain typical symptoms of TMD. These symptoms include:
- Pain in and around the ears, jaws, face, jaw joint and temples, often extending behind neck, and behind head. Tenderness may also be observed in these regions. Some unrelated pains in head, neck and shoulder region may also be TMD
- Difficulty in opening and closing of the mouth, and limited mouth opening, or reduced mouth opening in general.
- A noise, similar to clicking, popping, grinding or crunching may be heard when you try to chew, yawn or even open your mouth, apart from that one may notice a slight wandering of lower jaw on opening and closing motion, also called as Z-wander.
- Neck pains and headaches are also associated with this problem, and sometimes may involve shoulders. Are all non-serious chronic pains in the above mentioned areas due to TMD, one may safely say so with some margin of error.
If any of the above symptoms persist, then a visit to a dentist specializing in TMJ dentistry or a doctor is a must.
The Causes Of TMD
The most common causes of TMD are a combination of jaw injuries and jaw diseases like arthritis and this may be the most important factor- uneven grinding/ uneven development/crowding of the teeth. If the person suffering from this problem clenches or grinds his or her teeth, which is also called as bruxism, or keeps his or her neck or head is a constant tensed position, the problem of TMD may get aggravated. Stress is also believed to be yet another factor which can cause TMD; however, there is no proof of the effect of stress on this problem. Another factor which can lead to TMD is a poorly fitted full or partial denture. Unhygienic habits like nail biting, biting of pencil and pen, etc. can also cause TMD.
Simple remedies For The Treatment Of TMD
TMD cures itself in most of the cases. However, following simple tips can help in easing the pain and accelerating the healing process:
- Use cold or hot compress for massaging the jaws gently.
- Eat only those foods which are soft and small in size. Sticky food should be avoided.
- Do not open your mouth wide.
- Keep the jaw muscles relaxed.
Seeking Help from a Dentist expert in curing TMJD
With the help of x-rays and proper examination, the dentist will be able to chalk out a proper treatment plan for TMD. For muscle relaxation, this treatment plan should include a visit to a physiotherapist, chiropractor and also a behavioral therapist, in case an expert TMD Dentist is not available immediately. He may even give you certain medicines for easing the pain, reducing inflammation and relaxing your muscles. Sleeping aids can also be provided by him, if you are having trouble sleeping due to pain. Surgery is only used as a last resort remedy, when the patient does not respond to any other treatment.
Once an expert TMJ Dentist takes over with several cured cases that you can talk to, one must avoid another specialization to step in. To read how TMD can affect lower body and other unconnected diseases, click here.