Jaw pain may be related to a condition called temporomandibular dysfunction, or TMD.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is situated just in front of and below your ear. It is where the mandible (lower jaw) and the temporal bones of the skull meet. We have two temporomandibular joints – one on either side of our skull. Because of the position of these joints, TMD commonly causes pain in or around the ears, pain in the lower jaw or spreading down the neck or back, or pain/headaches in and around the temples or face. Pain can also be referred to our teeth.
The TMJ itself, like all other joints, is covered by a disc of cartilage which helps prevent the bones of the lower jaw and temple rubbing against each other. The cartilage also acts as a shock absorber when we eat, speak or chew.
Considering how often we use our TMJ, the development of TMD in some people is not surprising. Here are some factors to be aware of.
Symptoms of TMD
- Jaw pain
- Popping or clicking of your jaw on opening or closing
- Locking of your jaw
- Pain or headaches in the temporal region
- Tooth pain
- Pain in your ears or eyes
- Back or neck pain.
Causes of TMD pain
- Wear or degeneration of the joint
- Arthritis of the joint
- Misalignment of the teeth
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Poor posture
- Sleep apnoea.
Diagnosis and treatment of jaw pain
It can be difficult to diagnose TMD as there may be one of two contributors: either the joint itself; or the surrounding muscles, which are attached to our facial bones and help us with chewing, eating and speaking. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of TMD, it is therefore important to seek the professional opinion of a practitioner qualified in this area.
Here at Core Dental, our clinicians are all highly trained in this area.
An initial examination will begin with a full history of your complaint being taken. Your practitioner will then watch how your TMJ opens and closes while at the same time listening for any clicks or popping sounds. An examination will then be carried out to check the muscles of your face to help determine the cause of your pain.
An X-ray, or in some cases a scan, of the joint/joints may be required to discover any signs of wear or damage.
There is a wide range of treatment options available to suit the cause and severity of your condition. Examples include:
- Switching to softer foods while the joint/ muscles are in spasm, plus over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatories to help relax the facial muscles
- A custom-made bite splint to be worn during sleep to protect your jaw joints and muscles from further wear, and your teeth from chipping or breaking
- Physical therapy
With the very latest technologies available, plus specialists trained in treating TMD, we will find and treat the cause of your problem as quickly and effectively as possible, thereby restoring your quality of life.
If you would like further information on symptoms of TMD, as well as treatments, please contact our friendly and helpful reception team on 9363 7888.
Dr Tina Ledger
General DentistBDS (Hons) (UK)