Our bones are an essential part of the body because they support all bodily functions. For this reason, people are encouraged to strengthen their bones through various means, such as exercise and diet. The same also applies to the jaw because it allows us to talk and chew food. However, even the bones can experience problems, and for the jaw, this comes in the form of temporomandibular disorders.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are a group of conditions that causes pain in the jaw joint and its muscles, which controls jaw movement. The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are affected, which are located on each side of the jaw. When TMDs occur, they usually last a short time. However, they can become chronic and long-lasting, heavily affecting jaw function. Beyond that, there are other details surrounding TMDs that not many people know much about. For this reason, we’ll discuss the matter in this article.
Types of TMDs
TMDs are divided into three distinct categories. These are:
Disorders of the Joints
When the TMJs experience issues, such as disc disorders, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and spurs, they can cause pain, likely to be experienced during tooth gnashing and chewing. As a result, eating and chewing may become difficult.
Disorders of the Muscles
The muscles surrounding the joint, such as the masseter, temporalis, and ocular muscles, are also affected by TMDs. When these are affected, they can cause pain in the jaw, usually experienced when chewing or opening the mouth.
Headaches Associated with TMDs
A headache is another symptom of TMDs, coupled with pain experienced in the jaws and temples. The pain usually occurs during chewing, yawning, or opening the mouth.
Symptoms of TMDs
What causes TMDs aren’t precisely clear because it can stem from various factors. It sometimes starts without reason, while it could also be a matter of genetics and psychological stressors. However, it’s also worth noting that TMDs are more common in women than men, so experts believe biological differences also play a role.
Some of the most common symptoms of TMDs are as follows:
- Pain in the chewing muscles or jaw joint (most common symptom).
- Pain that’s felt to the face or neck.
- Painful popping or clicking in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth.
- Jaw stiffness.
- Limited jaw movement or locking altogether.
- Ringing ears, hearing loss, or dizziness.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut way to diagnose TMDs since what causes them isn’t clear. However, a doctor or dentist can still evaluate your symptoms and look at your medical history, then ask questions about the pain you feel.
They will examine your head, face, neck, and jaw for any sign of:
- Frequent jaw clicking or popping
- Jaw movement issues
A doctor or dentist may also recommend imaging tests such as x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) to get a more accurate idea of your problem. It’s also worth noting that your doctor or dentist will most likely rule out other conditions before diagnosing a TMD.
Since TMDs are usually temporary, the good news is that treatment isn’t always necessary. However, your doctor or dentist might still recommend some measures to take. These include:
- Eating soft food.
- Applying heat or cold to the face and facial exercises to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles.
- Take over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen.
- Reduce habits such as jaw clenching or nail-biting.
If the TMD is chronic or long-lasting, physical therapy may be recommended. Your doctor or dentist will let you know if physical therapy is the best option for you. Another option is to get a splint from your doctor or dentist, which would help the TMJs to rest.
Our teeth can be affected by a problem with the jaw, so it’s best to have regular dental checkups to prevent this from happening. By doing this, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to enjoy your life without having to worry about experiencing any problems with your teeth.
If you’re looking for dentists in Alexandria, Galleria Dental of Alexandria can help you! Our dental professionals understand the individual needs of our patients, so we develop comprehensive solutions to ensure that your teeth stay strong and healthy. Simply go to our website to book an appointment!