The TMJs – or temporomandibular joints – play a critical role in how your mouth functions. They are responsible for allowing you to open and close your mouth with ease and help you eat and speak comfortably. The TMJ acts as a hinge that slides and joins your lower jawbone and skull. You have a joint on both sides of your face, located in front of your ears.
What is TMD and its symptoms?
When there are problems with the joint, it can be characterized as a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). A popping or clicking of the jaw is a common symptom of the condition. The jaw might also lock, and the patient can have a limited range of motion. For some patients, they might have an inability to move the joint altogether.
Some other symptoms of TMD include pain and tenderness in the joint. Patients might also experience facial pain and headaches. Some patients might have a pain that radiates from the face into the shoulders, neck, and back. Teeth sensitivity can also be a side effect.
Causes of TMD
There are multiple causes of TMD, and sometimes it’s not easy to narrow down. At Peabody Dental Care, we work diligently to discover the source of your condition.
For some people, there might be too much strain on the joint and associated muscles. People who suffer from bruxism or teeth clenching might develop TMD. When patients have dental misalignment, this can also lead to jaw pain.
Arthritis sufferers might feel pain since the condition can affect the jaw joint. Conditions like fibromyalgia or IBS can also lead to TMD. For other patients, trauma to the head, neck, or jaw can cause the jaw disorder.
How is TMD diagnosed?
At our practice, we diagnose TMD with a thorough oral assessment. We will ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing and ask questions about your overall health. Dr. Peabody will physically examine you and see how well you can open and close your mouth. The dentist will also touch different parts of your face and jaw to see where you are experiencing any pain or tenderness. Diagnostic testing like x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can also be used.
What are bite splints?
Bite splints – or oral appliances – are a common option for addressing TMD and are usually the first line of defense. By wearing a splint, Dr. Peabody can realign your jaw and gently place it in a more favorable position.
There are several types of splints available to treat your TMD. Essix retainers are a kind of thin retainer that’s suitable for patients with mild to moderate symptoms. At our practice, we can customize splints to fit your mouth precisely. These comfortable guards work for patients who clench and grind their teeth and can also act as retainers.
What are some other TMD treatments?
Pain medications can be prescribed to alleviate the pain and discomfort of TMD. Dr. Peabody might also recommend muscle relaxants. To reduce swelling, patients can benefit from corticosteroids. When misalignment of the teeth is the problem, Dr. Peabody might recommend braces or Invisalign to straighten the teeth. For patients with more severe cases, surgery might be required to correct issues with the joint.
If you are experiencing jaw pain, chronic headaches, or other symptoms of TMD, schedule an appointment at our Santa Cruz, CA, office. Our knowledgeable team is here to help.