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.