If you suffer from debilitating headaches, neck or facial pain, these can be signs of a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder (TMD). Other signs and symptoms often include cracking, clicking or popping of your jaw upon opening or chewing, and sinus pain that is not responsive to antibiotics.

Millions of men, women and children currently suffer from TMD with symptoms ranging from headaches to facial pain. However, many patients may experience earaches with clogging, ringing and hearing loss. And in severe cases, a dislodged disc in the TMJ can lock or block jaw movement.

Other symptoms include grinding and clicking upon opening and closing of the jaw. In some cases, dental procedures can also irritate the TMJ and lead to stress and strain in the surrounding musculature. While not always painful, you might even experience clicking that can lead to a locking of the joint.

Causes of TMD

One major cause of TMD is chronic teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. If you grinding your teeth, it typically involves both the upper and lower teeth, and causes a strain on your teeth and the muscles used to chew. This can lead to pain in the face, head and neck. Some other complications involve TMJ laxity, which causes the support ligaments to elongate and cause disc displacement.

About 80 percent of women suffer from TMD, which is often due to an estrogen receptor in the TMJ. This micro trauma to teeth and the TMJ can lead to breakdowns of teeth and articulate structures of the TMJ. As a result, you can experience headaches, facial pain and neck pain.

Treatment options

Typically, the best treatment option is by visiting Dr. Sara in North Scottsdale. TMD can be treated in her office with oral appliance therapy. An oral appliance or mouth guard can help to decompress the TMJ and protect your teeth from damage due to teeth grinding. Appropriate medications such as muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory medication may help to decrease muscle spasms and inflammation as well.

Part of the comprehensive treatment program will also involve physical therapy evaluation and treatment. Physical therapy treatment will often include soft tissue work and mobilization of the TMJ. The posture of the mandible and head on neck will also be discussed and corrected because it directly involves the outcome of dental treatment in most cases. You will also be taught relaxation techniques and non-clenching strategies, which are key to the success of your treatment.

Contact Dr. Sara, our dentist in North Scottsdale, for more information on TMD and how physical therapy can help relieve some or all of your pain in conjunction with oral appliance therapy.