If you suffer from TMD, you are familiar with the pain it can cause in your jaws and face. But you may be asking, “Why does it hurt? What causes this pain in the first place?”
TMD Research Is Ongoing
TMD is a complex group of disorders that is still being researched to determine all the possible causes. The cause can often be connected to a previous injury to the jaw, yet there are also many cases where we see the symptoms but not the apparent cause. This is largely because TMD results from more than one influence that leads to an inflamed joint.
Injury to the jaw, as mentioned, is one of the more obvious factors. Research also suggests a connection between repeated clenching and grinding of the teeth, infections, hormones, diseases of the autoimmune system, some dental procedures, and arthritis.
Symptoms of TMD are similar to other conditions — ear infections, toothaches, different types of headaches and even sinus infections can all produce similar pain. For this reason, we must gather a complete health history to seek out any previous injuries or conditions that may be contributing to the current TMD experience. We physically examine the TMJ and your jaw muscles, your face, neck and head to observe any painful or tender areas. We note any clicking, popping, or scraping noises that may occur when you open and close your mouth — all signals that the joint may be in distress. We also use Cone Beam CT imaging to get a 3-D image of your jaw joints to aid in diagnosis.
While it is satisfying to know the underlying cause of your TMD, it might not be possible to learn easily because there are so many conditions that can ultimately affect the joints. The good news is that TMD can be diagnosed and treated without that last bit of tantalizing information, so you don’t have to wait until all the causes are ferreted out to begin.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
Eating smaller bites of softer foods and adding exercises to gently stretch the muscles can ease some of the symptoms. Cold or hot compresses can be applied for immediate relief. Some non-prescription pain medications can be helpful, as are relaxation techniques to overcome some of the discomfort. Dental appliances worn at night might be prescribed, too. Surgery or any other treatment that is not reversible is serious and needs to be carefully considered before moving forward.
If you have a mild case of TMD, you might see your symptoms clear in a short time with simple solutions like the application of ice compresses and managing stress to the muscles around the jaw and the joint itself.
More severe cases of TMD may not be curable, but the symptoms can be managed so they have less negative impact. Behavior modification and managing stress are two avenues of therapy that can lead to less pain and discomfort.
TMD Can Be Managed Successfully
We are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. If you or a loved one is suffering from facial and/or jaw pain, headaches and neck pain, you could be suffering from TMD. Contact us for an evaluation so we can diagnose your problem and prepare a treatment plan unique to you. In Indiana, we serve Granger, Middlebury, Warsaw, and Plymouth, and the surrounding area.