If you’re suffering from chronic jaw pain, you might be one of about 10 million people who has a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). People who have a TMD might also be prone to other health problems as well. TMD is a simple term that’s used to reference disorders that affect the joints, the tissues and muscles of the jaw. The symptoms that often accompany these disorders range from excruciating pain to reduced jaw mobility.
Finding the exact cause for these disorders can be rather difficult, however, dental problems, teeth clenching, stress and trauma are considered to be top factors. It’s also worth mentioning that women who are in their childbearing years are more vulnerable to these disorders.
Throughout the years, research has shown that a lot of people who suffer from a TMJ disorder also deal with other health issues. In fact, many TMD patients have reported that they have at least three other health conditions.
These conditions include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Medical researchers are still trying to find out if there is any distinct connection between TMD’s and the conditions listed above. They’re also trying to see how these connections may affect treatments and advances.
As for the TMD treatments themselves, there are two simple approaches; invasive and minimally invasive. An invasive treatment approach is to correct the defect through a surgical procedure in the structure of the jaw. However, there’s a drawback. Taking the surgical approach has mixed results.
Basically, what this means is that the effects may not be as good as taking a conservative approach. In fact, some people who have gotten a surgical procedure for their TMD have reported that they felt worse after it.
The other approach is treating the TMD orthopedically, similar to other joint issues. And there are a number of ways to go about it. Some options include using heat or ice to reduce any swelling, medication to alleviate pain, physical therapy to improve jaw function or reduce muscle spasms. Doctors also recommend that patients eat a softer diet that includes food that’s easy to chew.
If the situation calls for it, a dentist can prescribe patients with a custom-fitted mouthguard to break the habit of teeth grinding and reduce stress on the muscles and joints.
As we speak, researchers continue to learn more about TMD’s and its connection to other health problems. Until they can come up with an answer, many doctors and dentists recommend TMD patients to try the more conservative treatments first. Surgery should only be thought of as a last resort or if the TMD is severe.
Is your jaw starting to ache? Don’t worry, Bucks County Smiles is here to help! Contact us at 215-493-4021 to schedule an appointment or to learn more information today!