You have an earache. Your jaw may hurt. It may be very difficult to hear. Chewing may be difficult. You may have headaches or even dizziness. There may be a ‘clicking” noise. Having one of these things can make life very difficult. But having some of those symptoms at the same time? That’s awful. But it may be one culprit – TMD – Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.
There are people who think that the term for this is TMJ. That’s actually the name of the joint – temporomandibular joint. You have one of them on each side of your jaw. Any problems with it are considered TMD – temporomandibular disorder. The TMJ is basically a hinge that is connected to certain bones of your skull. It’s the main reason why you can open your mouth up and down, chew, talk, and even yawn.
There are a variety of reasons why people can get this disorder. It can be the result of grinding their teeth at night, which can throw their jaw out of alignment. It can be the result of trauma to the face. Arthritis can be a culprit. Your jaw could be dislocated. There can even be genetic reasons for it.
The main factors are disk erosion in your jaw, the cartilage of the joint is damaged or trauma. But there are times when the exact cause of what happened is a mystery. It just seems to appear out of nowhere.
The first thing that your dentist will do is confirm the diagnosis of TMD. They will examine you, take X-Rays, CT scans and and an MRI. They may check to see if you have tenderness in certain areas of your face, listen for clicking of the jaw and may also conduct TMJ arthroscopy by putting a tube in the joint space and put a camera through it so that they can make a definitive diagnosis.
Most of the time, you will be sent home to take steps to relieve the pain. They may tell you to get over-the-counter painkillers. You might also get a prescription for a low dosage of an antidepressant to help you relax while you sleep, since grinding your teeth can play a big part. Muscle relaxants can also help.
Caring for this can extend to the home, aside from the possible night mouthguard that the dentist gives. Meditation, massage or face and neck exercises can do a tremendous job of lessening the symptoms. Taking the occasional Tylenol can also relax the sore muscles around one’s face.
When it comes to eating, it would be good to start off with soft food. This will prevent any extreme chewing. You can also use ice packs for the sore area and also alternate it with heating pads. Don’t chew gum and try to avoid yawning (though this one can be difficult). Seek immediate medical attention if you can’t open or close your mouth.
It would be best to also avoid things that change your bite pattern – like crowns, bridges, or orthodontics. Some people feel that changing the alignment of teeth with braces can bring about TMD, but there have been no definitive studies to prove it.
While having TMD can be anything from a minor nuisance to negatively life-altering, you can do the above things to make it much more bearable. There are times, though, that shifts in the weather can also play a big part in terms of symptoms. Colder weather is harder on the jaw muscles since it makes them tighten – like when your teeth are chattering while you shiver. Fortunately, the average temperature in Jacksonville tends not to fall below 65 degrees even in the winter months.
Usually the symptoms are temporary, if the TMD turns out to be unmanageable, there are last-resort surgical options, but it’s very extensive and even sometimes involves the replacement of the bone that “hinges” the jaw.
Dr. Shaista Najmi and the staff at Ivory Dental Jacksonville know that the stresses of life and other things can cause issues with your teeth. Come see what they can do for you – and they will make sure that you are relaxed from the second you walk in to when you leave with a great-looking smile! Call today to make an appointment – 904-998-1555.