Temporomandibular Joint Disorder: Seven Ways to Treat TMD

Are you one of the 25% of North Americans who have a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)? But wait! What is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?

Before we can discuss its disorder, it’s important that you are able to identify where the TMJ is and what its function is.

The TMJ is located in front of your ears, and it connects your jaw to your skull. It allows us to move our jaw up and down and side to side, it is one of the most complex joints in the body and its purpose is to allow you to speak and eat.

A number of things can cause its disorder including:

  • injury to the jaw – muscles and tendons that have been injured will be weakened, and when worked, will result in pain that can become chronic.
  • teeth misalignment – when teeth are not in proper alignment, optimum biting forces are not achieved, resulting in movements that put stress on the jaw.
  • fingernail biting – when you bite your fingernails, your lower jaw is repeatedly forced out of a natural resting position for prolonged periods, putting extra stress on your jaw, causing discomfort or pain,and more!
  • worn, loose, or missing teeth – when a tooth is, or teeth are, lost, the teeth adjacent must work harder and forces are redistributed, leading to imbalanced use of jaw power, resulting in jaw pain and other symptoms (see below).
  • bruxism (clenching, grinding) – imagine a muscle being worked and worked and worked without rest… this is what bruxism does to your jaw. The continual use stresses and tightens the muscle so that it is unable to relax.
  • incorrect posture – alignment of the neck and jaw can put undue pressure on your jaws, resulting in discomfort and pain.
  • poorly fitted dentures–if dentures do not fit correctly, not only will it cause gum sores and pain, it will cause you to compensate when chewing and talking, throwing your jaws out of optimum alignment.
  • stress – this ties into bruxism (see above) and in addition to all the other symptoms stress brings, jaws may ache and be painful.
  • arthritis – yes, arthritis can affect your jawbone! Unilateral and degenerative, it will cause pain and affect the movement of your jaw. Often, we are the first to detect arthritis in your jaw as when we take x-rays.They reveal evidence.
  • chewing gum – jaws are not meant to be in constant motion, so when you chew gum, especially if you do so often and for long periods of time, your jaw muscles will tighten and become fatigued… and cause symptoms including pain.

Here are the most common symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder. If you have any, give us a call at 402-509-8220. In many cases it can be diagnosed and treated in the dental office.

  • headaches (sometimes severe)
  • pain or pressure behind the eyes
  • earaches or pain around one or both ears
  • ringing in the ears
  • temple-area pain
  • pain in one or both jaw joints
  • tenderness of the jaw muscles
  • aching facial pain
  • dizziness or vertigo
  • muscle spasms in the jaw
  • shoulder pain
  • a click or pop when you open and close your mouth
  • pain when yawning, opening the mouth widely, or chewing
  • jaws that lock open
  • change in the way the upper & lower teeth fit together
  • jaw pain when eating
  • and more!

As complex as TMD is, we are often able to help you restore your jaw’s harmony. There are a number of therapies that can effectively reduce or eliminate muscle tension, help you regain your stable bite, rest and heal your jaw joint … and eliminate the pain.

As your dentist in Omaha, how do we diagnose and treat TMD?

Diagnosis of TMD requires a thorough assessment of the joints and muscles. Your exam will also include a thorough oral examination, a review of your medical history, and radiographs. We’ll openly discuss our findings with you and if we determine that you have TMD, together we’ll create a treatment plan that’s right for your situation.

Pain management and treatment options include:

  • eating softer foods
  • avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
  • using heat packs to reduce pain
  • practicing relaxation techniques to control jaw tension (try meditation and/or yoga)
  • prescribed medications including muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories
  • an oral appliance or bite plate to decrease the effects of clenching or grinding your teeth or to reposition your jaw
  • etc.

It’s important to know that there’s no simple prescription for TMD and often, no single cause. But by using dental diagnostic tools and dental technology, we can assess your jaw joint and provide you with options that have been life-changing for some of our other patients.

Call us at 402-509-8220 for a consultation at Steven D. Wegner DDS. We’d love to get you out of pain so that you can get back to enjoying life!