What is TMD?

TMD stands for temporomandibular disorders, which affect the jaw muscles and the temporomandibular joints. These joints act as the hinge that connects your jaw to the bones of your skull, allowing for up and down and side-to-side movements that enable individuals to speak, chew their food, and even yawn when they’re feeling sleepy. Temporomandibular disorders can affect jaw movement and cause temporary or long-term pain. A TMD diagnosis can be discussed with your dentist or family doctor and can oftentimes be managed by self-regulated care.

What Causes TMD? 

In some cases, TMD disorders can be caused by a jaw injury or a combination of genetics and psychological stressors. Symptoms of TMD can arise from underlying issues with the jaw muscles or with the joints themselves. Grinding or clenching teeth can put undue pressure on the joint and stress can cause the jaw muscles to tighten and clench the teeth — which may then manifest itself in worsening symptoms. 

What Are the Common Symptoms of TMD? 

If you or a loved one has experienced the following symptoms, they may be a sign of a TMD.  

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Aching sensation or ringing in the ear
  • Locking of the jaw joint
  • Painful popping or clicking in the jaw joint
  • Limited range of motion in the jaw 

While there is no one-size-fits-all standard test when it comes to diagnosing TMDs, your dentist or medical provider can study your symptoms to make a professional determination. Depending on where the pain is located when it occurs, and what seems to make it better or worse, your provider can formulate whether a disorder is likely to be causing it.

How is TMD Treated? 

TMD symptoms may go away without treatment. Some experts recommend steering away from treatments that would cause permanent alteration to the jaw joints, teeth, or require a surgical approach to the issue. A dentist can study a patient’s health history and conduct an examination to guide them towards the correct course of treatment. 

X-rays may be taken to view the jaw, joints, and teeth to rule out other issues and a CT scan can be used to show details of the joint. To ease the initial discomfort, your dentist may recommend eating soft foods, applying a combination of heat and cold to the face, and practicing exercises that are designed to stretch the jaw muscles. Relaxation techniques can also be used to alleviate pressure on the jaw. 

In some cases, OTC medications may be recommended. If the patient tends to clench their jaw or bite their nails, these habits may need to be altered to ease the pain.  

LifeSmiles in Houston, TX believes in proactive dentistry to prevent issues from snowballing into larger ones. If you are experiencing persistent pain in your jaw, medical attention is recommended. Dr. Randy Mitchmore can conduct an exam and discuss possible causes of your symptoms and what treatments are available to ameliorate the discomfort.