Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) Tips for Pain Relief
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, commonly known as TMD, TMJ or TMJD, is a group of jaw conditions that causes many of its sufferers a great deal of pain.
The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull and helps you move your jaw. TMD occurs when there is a dysfunction of the connective joints. Symptoms often include:
- Pain around your face, jaw or neck area when you chew, talk or open your mouth wide (yawning)
- A “locked” jaw feeling
- Clicking sounds when you open and close your mouth
- Swelling on the side of the face
Professionals are unsure what causes TMD but contributing factors include grinding teeth at night, clenching down and physical trauma to the jaw (e.g. from an accident or fight).
Since little is still known about the disorder’s causes, treatments can be challenging. Studies have shown that about 20% of Americans suffer from TMD and most of them are female. There are currently no FDA approved medications specifically for TMD but over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like naproxen or ibuprofen, can help relieve some discomfort and swelling.
If you are having pain and think you may be suffering from TMD, visit your dentist or physician.
In the meantime, try these self-care habits to help alleviate some of the discomfort.
- Eat soft foods
- Apply an ice pack or moist heat every 15 minutes (15 on/15 off)
- Avoid gum chewing
- Avoid wide yawning
- Find techniques for relaxing and reducing stress
- Try not to let your teeth touch top to bottom as much as you can to relax your jaw
- Don’t rest your chin on your hand
- If you play contact sports, wear a mouth guard
Your dentist may prescribe stronger pain anti-inflammatory medications such as muscle relaxants if they feel it is necessary. The most common medical recommendation is an oral appliance or bite guard that you can obtain from your dentist. The bite guard is used at night while sleeping to prevent clamping down or grinding the teeth. When clenched all night the muscles around your joint can become quite inflamed and cause great pain upon waking up.
Surgical procedures such as jaw replacement and bite realignments have been explored and are practiced by some doctors. Be aware that these procedures are quite controversial and tend to have high risk of complications and irreversible damage.