Imagine your favorite food. Now think about your jaw pain. When you go in for that first, delicious bite, will it cause further pain? What about your favorite sandwich? If eating causes you pain, it is never fun. When you suffer from jaw pain, it can prevent you from eating just about any of your favorite foods, unless your favorite food is pudding or mashed potatoes. Let’s take a look at temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders (TMD) and how it might affect your daily life, especially what you eat.

Why does TMD cause difficulties?

TMD is a disorder of the jaw involving the TMJ. This disorder affects the joints and muscles associated with the jaw too. When someone suffers from TMD, it makes eating hard or chewy foods extremely difficult. 

Headaches associated with the TMJ are generally one sided headaches that occur in the front of the opening of the ear. From there it spreads and can be very debilitating. The pain worsens with chewing and is sometimes aided with heat or ice, as well as resting the jaw. 

A myofascial type of TMD is a tension disorder in which the muscles used for chewing become inflamed, and full of spasms and trigger points. This is a common type of TMD and can occur as a result of stress, grinding of the teeth at night and is often easy to treat. By identifying myofascial TMD, it is important to rule out other sources of dysfunction. 

Another form of TMD is discogenic, which is when the jaw joint has suffered an injury or tear to the disc. When the disc is torn, it causes clicking, popping and locking. For this reason it is important to identify muscles that pull on the disc in spasm. 

What treatment options are available?

For relief of myofascial TMD pain, it is important to treat the muscle by first identifying the amount of motion available in the jaw. This begins with massage, intra-oral massage, and gentle therapeutic exercise designed for the jaw. The most effective treatment for myofascial TMD is intra-oral massage. 

Treatment for discogenic TMD often includes the creation of a night splint by a dentist. This form of treatment can be very effective for relief of pain. It allows the joint to settle into its normal anatomic position and to relax the surrounding musculature. A night splint fabricated by our office can be extremely effective in relieving the pain of TMD.

Contact Dr. Sara at AZ Sleep & TMJ Solutions for more information about TMD and how you can find relief from the pain so you can enjoy your favorite foods once again.