TMD, more commonly called TMJ (which is actually the joint TMJ affects), is a jaw disorder that causes your jaw to be extremely tight and tense, resulting in a lot of pain all throughout the head and neck. It is estimated that more than 15% of adults in the US suffer from some version of TMD. If you’re among that 15%, it doesn’t matter how severe your TMD is. Any pain, popping, or sticking of the jaw is inconvenient and painful. So how can you get it treated?
The answer is so simple that it is lying just under your nose. Who do you go to for most of your other jaw problems? That’s right—your dentist. So what can your dentist do to help relieve your TMD suffering?
A Real Diagnosis
Before anything can be treated, it must be properly diagnosed. Although TMD can be tricky to diagnose exactly (due to uncertain causes), in most cases your dentist will be able to do so after you tell him about your symptoms and he examines your face. Although this examination is usually just a simple physical examination, your dentist might also want to take x-rays or a plaster cast of your teeth.
The Best Treatment Possible
After diagnosing your specific case of TMD, your dentist will be able to give you instructions on how best to go about treating the problem. This will usually involve a combination of treating both causes and symptoms.
While you are working through the condition itself (TMD often involves therapy), you can take pain medications or heating packs to the area to help relieve the pain and relax the area.
Therapy—Physical and Mental
Stress can actually play a major role in TMJ disorders, and therefore you need to learn how to manage your stress. This means you might need to go to therapy to learn how to better relax. If your teeth are poorly aligned, or your jaw is extremely tense, your dentist may prescribe you some jaw exercises that will help loosen it up. This combination of therapies is usually effective at treatment.
If tooth alignment is causing problems that can’t be solved with repositioning exercises, your dentist may suggest orthodontic treatment. Smaller tools like mouth guards may also help with factors like bruxism.