Your temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the rest of your skull. It sits right below your ears, and when it is strained or damaged, it can be a source of discomfort and pain in the region.
This is known as a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD for short. At best, it’s an annoyance. At worst, it is a chronic debilitating condition. There are a few things to know about TMD, including what may cause it and what you can do if you begin to experience it.
A Slew of Symptoms
Beyond an annoying clicking, TMD can have some more serious and farther-reaching effects, as the nerves in the area connect all over your upper body. It can lead to headaches, pain and swelling in the temples, cheeks and chin, and even shoulder pain and stiff neck muscles.
Some patients suffering from TMD have reported dizziness and vertigo, along with ringing and a sense of fullness in their ears. When you start to experience several of these symptoms at once, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor or dentist about whether you may be suffering from a TMD.
It is not known for certain what exactly leads to TMD, but doctors and dentists have some pretty good ideas. For one thing, people with other inflammatory ailments such as arthritis are at an increased risk. High stress levels can lead to muscle tension and jaw clenching, which can contribute to TMD. Poor posture can put a strain on the muscles and nerves in your upper body, including your temporomandibular joint. Even excessive gum chewing can be a factor!
There are plenty of things you can do if you begin to experience the symptoms of TMD. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Aleve, Advil or Motrin can reduce soreness. Applying cold or heat to the affected area can often provide relief. Sometimes a gentle massage to the area can provide relief. In general, reducing your stress levels is always a good idea when dealing with TMD. If your symptoms are particularly severe or long-lasting, medical intervention may be necessary, ranging from physical therapy and dental splints to arthroscopic surgery to the jaw; however, surgery is rarely required. Just try to cut back on the gum and the stress (we know, easier said than done, right?). If you have any questions, you can book an appointment and we’ll be glad to help you out!