TMD, TMJ and the causes of jaw pain
The clinical term for jaw pain is TMD, or temporal mandibular disorder. It comes from the TMJ, which is the temporal mandibular joint—the jaw joint. It’s a jaw pain that can start around the general area but may present as referred pain in the neck and shoulders, or headaches.
Let’s look at what clients who have TMD are experiencing. What are the triggers that might suggest to a dentist that the client has this condition?
Symptoms of TMD
Some of the symptoms that we find in clients with TMJ disorders include jaw pain, an aching pain in and around the ear, tinnutus (ringing in the ear), difficulty chewing, and soreness in the muscles around the neck and the jaw. Some clients start to get clicking of the jaw joints, and locking of the jaw joints in some cases as well. These sorts of complaints will trigger an investigation of whether the jaw pain they are experiencing can be traced to the TMJ.
What’s really causing your jaw pain?
The first thing we need to do is to work out why the client is experiencing those symptoms i.e the cause of the problem. Are the symptoms related to the TMJ, or is there is some other issue at play? Problems in other parts of the body as far as the feet can refer back to the TMJ; and vice versa.
Treatment recommendations are obviously dependent on the cause of the issue. But we always try conservative methods of treatment first. These conservative methods for treating or allaying jaw pain might include physiotherapy to help the client loosen the muscle, or a daily series of repetitions of simple exercises they can try to help them relax or realign the TMJ.
We also work closely with a physiotherapist who has special interest in TMJ dysfunction—they use massage manipulation and techniques to help fix and heal those muscles around the jaw joints.
Teeth grinding is a major cause of TMD. Teeth grinding could be caused by anxiety, pain somewhere in the body or a sleep related disorder such as sleep apnoea. We are able to do investigate this further in order to provide you with solutions such as bite guards (splints) to help reduce/treat TMD and protect the teeth from wearing away.
In some cases, the bite could be the cause of the problem and might need correction using orthodontics.
Managing extreme cases of TMD
Beyond that, if conservative options fail, one might need to consider surgery to correct the issue. This is usually the last stop in the suite of treatments we offer to manage jaw pain caused by TMJ. If the treatment plans to relax the muscles around the joint don’t appear to be relieving the jaw pain or encouraging healing, we could consider this option.
Disclaimer: Results may vary between individuals. Any dental procedure carries risks and benefits. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified practitioner.