Often caused by clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth over a period of time, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) can cause pain and discomfort in your jaw, restricting everyday activities such as speaking and eating.
In this month’s Treatment Spotlight, we spoke to Dr Laura Siebels - a dentist at our Mona Vale practice and a TMD specialist - about what causes this common dental condition, what type of symptoms you might experience, and how you can minimise the discomfort of a TMD.
What is a Temporomandibular Disorder?
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. You have one on either side of your face, located in front of each ear. The Temporomandibular joints enable the movements necessary for speaking, eating, and making facial expressions.
TMDs are common conditions that can cause jaw pain, abnormal jaw movements, and joint noises, such as a clicking sound when you open your mouth.
What are the symptoms of a Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)?
People suffering from a TMD may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw region, particularly when eating
- Aching in front of your ear, which may spread to the rest of your face, or ringing in your ear
- Locking of the jaw, making it difficult to open and close your mouth
- A clicking or grating sound that occurs when you open your mouth or chew
- An uncomfortable or uneven bite
What causes a Temporomandibular Disorder?
Damage can occur to the Temporomandibular joint when the joint’s disc - the cushioning cartilage - slips out of position. Usually, this is the result of clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth over long periods of time, most commonly at night. However, TMDs can also be caused by other factors, including injury or arthritis.
Some of the contributing factors that can cause TMDs include:
- Dental issues, e.g. new fillings or Dentures resulting in an uneven bite
- Wear and tear of the joint, usually caused by osteoarthritis
- Jaw clenching and teeth grinding which can be linked to stress
- Other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or gout
Who is at risk of developing a Temporomandibular Disorder?
You may be at risk of developing a TMD if you:
- Often wake up with sore or stiff muscles around your jaw or neck
- Experience frequent headaches or pain in your neck and back
- Clench your jaw or grind your teeth due to stress
- Find it difficult to open your mouth wide to eat or yawn
- Suffer from arthritis
- Have sensitive or broken teeth
TMDs may also be associated with disturbed sleep patterns and difficulty breathing at night, such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).
How is a Temporomandibular Disorder treated?
Treatment for TMDs will vary greatly depending on your level of pain or discomfort and the underlying cause of the condition.
To find out about treatment options for a TMD, you should one of our dentists who can examine you and advise on the best solution.
How can I relieve symptoms of a Temporomandibular Disorder?
The symptoms associated with TMDs may go away without treatment. In the meantime, here are some of the ways you can reduce the pain of a TMD:
- Eat soft foods
- Avoid chewing gum
- Cut food into small pieces
- Avoid clenching your jaw or having your teeth in contact during the day, unless you’re swallowing, eating or speaking
- Try not to open your mouth wide
- Wear a mouthguard while you sleep to prevent jaw clenching or teeth grinding
- Try relaxation techniques to relieve stress
For advice on TMD and the right treatment option for you, make an appointment with your National Dental Care / DB Dental dentist - Book Online today.