The joint connecting the jawbone to the skull’s temporal bone is commonly referred to as the temporomandibular joint or TMJ for short. When there are problems involving the facial muscles and jaw, you have what is known as a TMD or Temporomandibular joint disorder. Over 40% of the people that suffer with headaches were diagnosed with TMJ syndrome. As per the statistics, over 75 million patients are affected by this ailment but only 5% are correctly diagnosed.
TMD Warning Signs and SymptomsBecause there are numerous symptoms and warning signs, diagnosis of the disorder can be difficult. Some of the more common signs and symptoms include:
- clicking or popping noises when closing or opening the mouth
- facial swelling
- jaw gets locked (feels like it’s stuck) or shifts out of position
- migraine-like headaches
- noticeable jaw muscle tenderness
- pain and pressure at the back of the eyes
- pain in the ear, face, or jaw area
Treating TMDYour dentist may recommend the following treatments if you are diagnosed with TMD. In most cases, you will not feel any relief from using a single treatment. Consequently, most dentists agree that a combination of these treatments will have the best results:
Eat soft foods – food that requires a decreased amount of chewing gives your jaw an opportunity to relax and heal. You shouldn’t eat chewy, crunchy or hard, and large or thick foods. Whenever possible, smaller cut pieces of food will be considerably easier and less painful to chew. Soft foods such as the ones listed below work best:
- cooked fruits or vegetables
- cottage cheese
- fruit smoothies
- mashed potatoes
- scrambled eggs
Medications – the most common prescribed medicines include anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, muscle relaxants, and NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Splints – these dental devices fit over the teeth and prevent the lowers and uppers from fitting together and touching. This helps to prevent bruxism (grinding) and clenching of the teeth. The device relieves jaw joint and muscle pressure so they are able to rest and heal. If your dentist prescribes this treatment, they will be able to determine if you should wear the device during the day or in the evening and for what length of time. It should never be worn in order to alter your bite.