What is TMJ and TMD?
TMJ is an abbreviation for your Temporomandibular Joints. These are the joints connecting your lower jawbone (mandible) to your skull.
TMD stands for Temporomandibular Disorder. This is when you experience chronic face and neck pain, as well as recurring headaches, due to problems with your TMJ.
Your temporomandibular joints are extremely active throughout the day. You engage them every time you speak, chew, swallow, and yawn. Those with pain caused by TMD can experience extreme discomfort and difficulties with such basic tasks as talking and eating.
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What causes TMD?
There are several factors which, when coupled with evidence of the symptoms above, may indicate the presence of TMD. These are:
- Injuries to your jaw or TMJ.
- Injuries to your head and neck muscles (such as those caused by whiplash).
- Regular grinding or clenching of teeth.
- Arthritis in the TMJ.
- Stress which causes you to tighten your facial muscles or clench your teeth.
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How to Prevent or Reduce TMD
Some easy at-home treatments for TMD that may help are:
- NSAID medications like naproxen or ibuprofen which relieve muscle pain and swelling.
- Alternating cold and heat applied to the side of your face. First, use an ice pack for about 10 minutes, stretch your jaw a bit, then apply a warm washcloth for 5 minutes.
- Eat soft foods that require less strenuous chewing.
- Relax your jaw with lips together, teeth apart. You can use your tongue as a spacer if needed.
- Avoid grinding your teeth and chewing gum.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Focus on relaxing the muscles of your face, head, neck, and shoulders.
- Practice good posture when both seated and standing.
If these steps don’t mitigate your TMD pain, your dentist may resort to other treatments such as:
- Prescription-strength medications such as NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, or anti-anxiety meds.
- Nightguards or dental splints to keep your teeth from grinding.
- Dental work to repair damage or conditions inside the mouth that may be causing the discomfort, such as infections or missing teeth.
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If you feel that you may be suffering from TMD, make sure to let your dentist know. Schedule an appointment today to discuss your treatment strategy so we can work together to eliminate this pain.