TMD: Guide to Understanding Symptoms and FAQs

patient suffering from tmj pain

What is TMD? How can I alleviate discomfort from TMJ?

Symptoms, Remedies, Treatment Options, and More

If you’re experiencing jaw discomfort like locking, popping, stiffness, or soreness, you might have a common condition called Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD). According to the National Institute of Health, this disorder affects between 5-12% of Americans, twice as many women as it does men, and more younger patients than older ones, which is unusual for chronic pain conditions.

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While this type of joint dysfunction isn’t life-threatening, it can still be extremely detrimental to your quality of life. Typically, a byproduct of strain and trauma to the temporomandibular joints or muscles may result from bruxism (teeth grinding and bite clenching) or malocclusions (bite misalignment) that uncomfortably pull on the jaw.

Comprehend the nature of the disorder. Knowing its potential issues is crucial. This knowledge can help ease your uncertainties.

Consider a consultation for TMJ treatment options. A step towards finding solutions. Keep in mind, you're not required to go through this by yourself.

woman suffering from tmd symptoms

What are

The Symptoms Of TMD?

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you could be suffering from a temporomandibular joint disorder:

  • Abrupt headaches
  • Tinnitus (ear ringing) and/or hearing loss
  • Sharp pain spreading behind the eyes, in the face, or upper body
  • Bruxism
  • Dizziness
  • Change in bite alignment and/or teeth enamel (cracking, chipping, flattening, etc.)
  • Limited mouth movement
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Jaw clicking, popping, or painfully “locking” in place
  • Overall jaw soreness or discomfort, most intense during the morning

Worth noting that the most intense bruxism clenching typically occurs during sleep when you aren't awake or conscious enough to help it. Risks of this clenching can also be intensified by family history, mental health conditions (particularly anxiety), and substance issues.

Abusing stimulants (like caffeine, cocaine, and amphetamine) can overactivated the jaw muscles, and has been clinically linked to increased TMJ risk. In 2019, the Brazilian Research in Pediatric Dentistry journal observed that amphetamines, in particular, could amplify that risk over sixfold.

If you’re dealing with TMJ disorder symptoms and remedies, here’s a simple guide.

Initially, consult with a proficient dentist or orthodontist. Request them to create a personalized bite guard for you. This device fits over your jaw joint, which is on the side of your face.

Next, consider getting professional help for stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy or addiction counseling can be beneficial. These therapies can help you manage stressors that might be making your TMJ disorder worse.

person dealing with tmj pain

Where Does

TMD Cause Pain?

Dealing with jaw pain and TMD discomfort can be challenging. TMJ disorders primarily affect the jaw, teeth, and mouth.

The joints that connect the jawbone and skull play a crucial role. When these joints face issues, it can lead to symptoms across the face and skull. In severe cases, the pain can be intense.

The TMJ is located in front of your ears. Swelling and inflammation in this area can cause minor hearing loss.

Strain on the jaw muscles can also impact surrounding nerves, joints, and muscles. This strain can lead to pain and numbness in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. In extreme cases, it can even affect the arms and legs.

Jaw movement is essential for opening and closing the mouth and for moving the jaw side to side. When dealing with TMJ disorders, it’s important to manage these movements to prevent long-term discomfort. Applying moist heat can also help alleviate some of the symptoms.

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Will TMJ Go Away


TMJ Go Away?

Mild TMD frequently improves without intervention. However, if left untreated, severe TMJ disorders can lead to long-lasting discomfort and symptoms lasting for months or even years.

The positive news is that even in severe cases, most damage caused by TMJ disorders can be reversed. A 2017 C&EO study of 112 patients with TMJ and hearing loss found that 101 improved their hearing. Of the individuals in question, 67 achieved complete recovery.

Using occlusal guards can swiftly ease symptoms of bruxism-related TMJ disorders. Despite ongoing challenges, chronic TMJ doesn't have to permanently impact your life.

For relief, consider muscle relaxants, physical therapy, and pain relievers. Eating soft foods, avoiding clenching or grinding, and using mouth guards can also help reduce pain. Incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine can contribute to overall well-being. Remember, there are effective ways to manage TMJ disorders, so don't hesitate to seek appropriate care.

How Is TMJ Diagnosed

How Is

TMJ Diagnosed?

An experienced doctor, dentist, or licensed orthodontist can diagnose TMJ disorders. Typically, they will do so by:

  • Asking you questions
  • Monitoring jaw motion
  • Listening to your jaw for clicking
  • Pressing around the jaw to identify discomfort spots
  • Taking diagnostic imaging (X-rays, CT scans, or MRI pictures)

Typically, imaging occurs when the healthcare provider has reason to suspect a problem. Getting an inside look at the joint, jawbone, teeth, and surrounding tissues will them gain a better understanding of what may be causing your TMJ disorder.

Once that is evaluated, the provider can then evaluate the best course(s) of action.

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Treats TMJ?

If you have TMD because of bruxism or malocclusion, you need an experienced dentist or orthodontist. They can guide your treatment.

They can choose the best night guard for your TMD. They also have the authority to determine if you should don it throughout the day.

Remember, Effective tools to treat TMJ disorders at home include options like Invisalign and lingual braces. These can be part of your treatment plan.

While you can order over-the-counter occlusal guards, investing in a custom-fit appliance is your best bet for the most effective results. To create this custom-fit occlusal guard, the dentist or orthodontist will typically:

  • Probe your diagnosis to determine the best type of occlusal guard
  • Measure TMD discomfort with a bite test, informing their occlusal guard choice
  • Use the shape of that bite to mold the custom fit (unless it’s a hydrostatic guard)
  • Discuss cleaning, next steps, and additional treatment measures

Even with all that said, it’s important that TMD treatment isn’t just a battle fought on one front. If you suspect behavioral or substance problems are contributing to your TMD, we highly recommend that you open about them with a professional counselor.

For persistent TMD symptoms, consider these self-care steps: use pain medication if needed, do physical jaw exercises, adjust your diet to soft foods, make behavioral changes to avoid stressors and bad habits, apply ice or hot packs to the jaw, and practice mental relaxation exercises. Remember, you play the most crucial role in treating TMD by actively using these tools.