What is TMJ?
The TMJ, also known as the Temporomandibular Joint, is the joint on either side of your head, just in front of your ear, that connects the jawbone to the skull. The TMJ controls jaw movement and flexibility, allowing us to chew, talk and move our mouths in any way. Disorders of the TMJ are often mistakenly called TMJ, when they should actually be called TMJ Disorder or TMD (which stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder).
What is TMD?
TMD is a dysfunction of the TMJ joint and surrounding muscles that causes pain and difficulty when moving the jaw. The causes of TMD are not always clear, but they all seem to be related to stress being put on the muscles and joints of the jaw.
Some of the known causes of TMD are:
- Various forms of arthritis in the TMJ
- Infections in the mouth, teeth or jawbone
- Jaw injuries
- Autoimmune diseases
- Teeth clenching and/or grinding
Symptoms of TMD include:
- Pain in or around your ear
- Pain in your jaw or face
- Pain in your neck and shoulders
- Clicking or popping in your jaw joint when you open/close your mouth
- Chronic headaches
- Lock jaw
- Difficulty or discomfort while chewing
- Swelling in the side of your face
Diagnosis and Treatments
The symptoms of TMD are also symptoms of many other conditions; for that reason it’s important to visit your dentist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Dentists can offer treatment for TMD in the form of medications (muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety meds, etc.), a mouth guard (to correct your bite and prevent stress from clenching/grinding), dental work or even surgery, depending on the severity of your case.
There are also at home remedies that can help treat TMD. One at home treatment option is over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, to help with any pain and swelling. Using a combination of hot and cold compresses can be a relief, as well as staying away from hard, chewy or crunchy foods that make your jaw work too hard.
Keeping your muscles relaxed will help and keeping your teeth slightly apart will take pressure off your jaw. Anything that reduces stress will help relax your muscles, so consider getting a massage, signing up for a therapy session or joining a gym.