Jaw pain, or pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), can be confusing. In fact, when there is TMJ pain or soreness, it can sometimes radiate in other areas of the head, leading to confusion for where the pain is actually coming from. By understanding temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), you can, perhaps, know what to look out for. 

To help you better understand TMD and the pain you may be experiencing, we have put together some information for you to follow. 

What are the causes of TMD?

There are actually a variety of factors that lead to TMD. Unfortunately, though, there is not just one specific cause or treatment for TMD. In fact, this disorder can be caused by problems with the structure of the anatomical joint, the muscles we use to chew or head and neck muscles. Depending on the diagnosis, there are different treatments available. 

The most common form of TMD is myofascial pain, which results in discomfort or pain in the fascia and muscles used to chew or that control the neck and shoulder function. Internal derangement of the joint, which involves a dislocated jaw or displaced disc, can also be a cause of TMD. While the actual cause of TMD may not be evident, bruxism is often a leading cause. Yet, it is not exclusive to TMD. Trauma to the jaw, head or neck can also cause this disorder. 

What are the symptoms of TMD?

The symptoms of TMD can vary widely, but pain is often described as dull and achy or sharp and shooting. To make things more confusing, some people may not even experience pain. Some symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain in muscles of mastication or neck and shoulder areas.
  • Chronic headaches.
  • Limited movement or locking of jaw.
  • Ear pain, pressure, fullness, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
  • Clicking, popping, grating noise during jaw movement.
  • A bite that feels “off.”
  • Dizziness and vision problems.

How do you treat TMD?

The goal of treatment is to provide good function and a relatively pain-free experience with friction-free movement. There are many treatments available for TMD, but about 90% of cases can be successfully treated with nonsurgical interventions such as oral appliance therapy.

A soft diet is also recommended to eliminate over extension of the jaw. Yes, that may mean skipping that big, juicy cheeseburger, but there are so many other great food options that won’t irritate your jaw pain. It is also helpful to alternate between heat and ice for relief from discomfort. 

Questions to consider

If you suspect you might be experiencing TMD, here are some questions to think about:

  • Do you experience clicking, popping, and/or pain when opening or closing your jaw?
  • Are you experiencing any limitations with opening and/or closing your jaw?
  • Do you have constant pain, or are your symptoms intermittent?
  • What triggers seem to make the pain better or worse?
  • When did you first experience signs or symptoms of TMD?
  • Do you have frequent headaches, neck pain, or toothaches?
  • What strategies have you tried to address this problem? Were any successful or unsuccessful?

Contact us today to learn more about TMD and to find out how oral appliance therapy can help.