Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMD) affect over 10 million Americans each year, according to the National Institutes of Health. In this post, we’ll describe the issues surrounding TMD and how we help patients recover.
Trauma to the jaw plays a role in some TMD cases, as does bruxism (teeth grinding). Many times, however, the exact cause is not clear. Symptoms include:
- Pain in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Jaw locking
- Painful clicking, popping or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
TMD can be frustrating for patients and dentists alike. It often appears out of nowhere; patients have a hard time describing when/why the pain started. Dentists can also be stumped. The jaw joint and the surrounding muscles form a tremendously complex system, and pinpointing the pain source is often not an easy task.
Simple self-care practices are a good place to start if you’re experiencing TMD-related jaw pain. Eat soft foods. Use ice packs. And also try your best to avoid extreme jaw movements, like wide yawning and gum chewing.
If you play sports, it’s been shown that wearing a mouth guard can ease TMD symptoms. The mouth guard absorbs the shock from sudden movements and jolts common in many sports, thus relieving the stress on the jaw.
Our Conservative Approach
Because TMD is so hard to diagnose, we take a conservative approach. We only recommend treatments that cause permanent changes in the bite or jaw if the situation dictates such a solution (usually as a result of an injury). We have the expertise to insert crowns and/or bridges to balance the bite. We can also grind teeth down to achieve better balance.
We don’t typically recommend surgery to fix TMD. There have been no long-term studies to test the safety and effectiveness of these procedures and home remedies most often fix the problem.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’re experiencing any symptoms of TMD. We’re happy to work with our Jacksonville patients to get to the source of the pain and find the best solution.