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Temporomandibular joint (TMJ, joint of the lower jaw) and the ear canal. The physician indicates on the mandibular joint or human ear bone canal as the source of the symptom, pain or illness

What is Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD)?

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) affects the movement of your jaw. Your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are among the most complex joints in the body. They act like a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull and sufferers of this disorder may experience pain in the joint and muscles that control the jaw’s movement.

The good news is – in most cases, this isn’t serious. The condition usually gets better on its own and there are treatments available for patients that need them.

What causes TMD?

Quite often, the actual cause of a patient’s TMD is unclear, and varies from patient to patient. In most cases, the underlying cause is excessive strain on the jaw joints and muscles that control chewing, swallowing and talking. This is often due to an uneven bite, grinding of the teeth (bruxism) or even trauma to the jaw, head or neck.

In some cases, TMD is caused by arthritis and displacement of the jaw joint disks.

What are the symptoms of TMD?

Symptoms can vary for each person, depending on how severe their disorder is. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Painful or tender jaw
  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
  • Aches in or around the ears, or ringing of the ears
  • Pain or difficulty when chewing
  • Aches around the face or temples
  • Jaw clicks or locks, and moving the mouth is difficult
  • Dizziness
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • The upper and lower teeth don’t fit together as well

What are the risk factors involved?

Some people are more at risk of developing TMD than others. You have more chance of developing the disorder if you already suffer from any of the following:

  • Arthritis
  • A jaw injury
  • Long-term (chronic) bruxism
  • Diseases that affect the connective tissues around the temporomandibular joints

Possible treatments

For milder cases of TMD, there are some things you can do at home to ease the pain around your jaw. Try only eating soft foods, take over-the-counter pain medication, hold ice packs or heat packs to the jaw, and gently massage the painful muscles around the jaw. Try to avoid biting down on hard foods (or your nails), yawning too widely, and clenching your teeth.

If the pain doesn’t ease or keeps returning, or is impacting your daily life, it’s time to see your dentist or doctor. They will choose the most appropriate treatment by looking at factors like your age, medical history and severity of condition, with some possible treatments including:

  • Stronger pain relief medication
  • Relaxation techniques to reduce stress and help you sleep
  • Physical therapy
  • Treatments to stop teeth clenching or grinding (such as a mouthguard)
  • Diet change recommendations, for less stress on the jaw muscles
  • Ice packs and heat packs
  • Surgery

Contact your Templestowe dentist

If you’re concerned about pain in the mouth or teeth grinding, contact your dentist. We can examine your mouth and recommend some treatments to ease the pain and ensure TMD doesn’t disrupt your life or sleep. For all serious cases, we’ll recommend you see a doctor. Give us a call on (03) 9841 8033 or email [email protected] to speak to a member of our team.

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