Temporomandibular Disorder

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic facial and neck pain as well as recurrent headaches. In some cases this pain may be due to temporomandibular disorder, or TMD.

The joints and muscles on each side of your jaw work to open and close the mouth. These joints move in many different directions to give you the range of motion needed to chew, talk and swallow.  Your temporomandibular joints, or jaw joints, connect your lower jawbone to your skull. The two temporomandibular joints are among the most complex joints in the body. They work together in a delicate balance with muscles, ligaments, cartilage and your jaw bones. Pain can result when these parts don’t work together properly.  As you may imagine, these joints get quite a lot of use throughout the day as you speak, chew, swallow, and yawn.  Pain in and around these joints can be unpleasant and may even restrict movement.

A temporomandibular disorder is a condition, not a specific disease. TMDs can have many different signs and symptoms, from mild to severe. Some patients may have symptoms but are still able to fully function in their everyday lives. TMDs appear to be more common in women.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the jaw area
  • Pain, ringing, or stuffiness in or around the ears
  • Frequent headaches or neck aches
  • Clicking or popping sound when the jaw moves
  • Pain when yawning or chewing
  • Swelling on the sides of the face
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw area
  • A change in the alignment of top and bottom teeth
  • Locked jaw or limited opening of the mouth and jaw joints that feel as if they "lock", "get stuck" or "go out"

Should you notice any of these symptoms, let us know! Dr. Tsibel can advise you as to whether they indicate the presence of TMD, and what sort of management/treatment may be appropriate for you.

What can cause TMD?
TMD may be multifactorial, in addition, several conditions may be linked with TMD. This often makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of a particular case of TMD. These conditions include:
  • jaw or head injuries
  • diseases that affect the muscles or joints, such as arthritis
  • tooth grinding and clenching
  • anxiety and/or stress

To determine how best to treat your TMD and/or symptoms, a complete and more thorough evaluation may be recommended.

Treatment Options

For some patients, the disorders may disappear by themselves; for others, they may come and go, or may worsen over time. TMD disorders are often managed, rather than cured.  Dr Tsibel may recommend specific management techniques and/or treatment, or refer you to a physician or a TMJ specialist.  There are a number of ways in which TMD may be managed. Dr. Tsibel will try to find the best approach that relieves your symptoms and discomfort. Treatment may involve a series of steps. The step-by-step plan will allow you to try simple and most conservative treatments before moving on to something that is more involved. Experts generally recommend a “less is best” approach to treating TMJ disorders. This means that the simplest, most conservative treatment that provides you with pain and discomfort relief and/or management may be the best for you!

There are some simple things you can do at home or work to minimize symptoms and the chance of developing TMD in your jaw joints:

  • Relax your face – remember the rule: "Lips together, teeth apart"
  • Eat softer foods or avoid foods that cause symptoms
  • Minimize extreme jaw movements, such as yawning and yelling
  • Avoid grinding your teeth
  • Avoid constant gum chewing
  • Don't cradle the phone receiver between your head and shoulder – either use a headset or hold the receiver to your ear
  • Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth
  • Use heat or ice packs to help with pain and discomfort
  • Do not sit with your chin rested on your hand
  • Practice good posture – keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain relief medicines may be helpful (ask Dr. Tsibel first)

Excellent, most up-to-date, and scientifically evidence-based resource on TMJ/TMD

Also ask us for our custom "TMJ/TMD Handout".

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