Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder | Dr. Ali Ghahary

If you’ve ever suffered from a sore or “locked” jaw, you may have a condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder – also known as TMD.

It is not uncommon to hear TMD and/or TMJ used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. TMD refers to the disorder itself – temporomandibular joint disorder, while TMJ refers to the affected joint itself – the temporomandibular joint. This joint is located on each side of your head, just in front of the ears, and connects the mandible (your jaw) to the temporal bone (your skull). This joint can move in a number of different wats, such as rotating forwards, backwards, and side to side, and is responsible for allowing you the ability to open and close your mouth, yawn, swallow, talk, and chew. However, when your jaw becomes misaligned many of these tasks can become quite painful. When a problem with this joint or any of the surrounding muscles/tissues occurs, it is very possible that you could have TMD.

There are a number reasons why you might develop TMD, and some of those reasons may either be caused by TMD itself or may make your TMD symptoms even worse. These include (but are not limited to) injuries to the jaw (which can occur as a result of playing sports, getting into fights, or being in car accidents), tension of the head and/or neck muscles, grinding and/or clenching of the teeth, and even stress. You can also develop TMD as a result of having a lack of (or no) teeth, as this changes the way the jaw sits and moves. If you are missing teeth, dentists and family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary recommend getting dentures. However, it is important to make sure your dentures are the right fit, as you can also develop TMD as a result of them not fitting properly.

In individuals with TMD, the most commonly reported symptom is pain or tenderness around the ear, the jaw joint, the jaw’s muscles, the temples, and the face. This pain is especially prevalent when pressure is applied to any of these areas or when you try to open and close your mouth. It’s also not uncommon to notice sounds while opening and/or closing your mouth, such as clicking, popping, grinding or crunching. TMD is also commonly linked with neck and back pain, as well as headaches and migraines.

In order to relieve a sore or stiff jaw, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends the following at-home remedies…

You can try gently massaging your jaw muscles as well as applying warm and/or cold compresses to the jaw (alternating between warmth and cold can be helpful.) It’s also recommended that you eat a soft diet while you are experiencing any TMD symptoms, and make sure you avoid food that’s chewy or hard. A soft diet can consist of things like soup, mashed potato, yogurt, etc. Similar to a diet that dentists would recommend to patients undergoing teeth extractions or any other major dental procedures. You should try to avoid opening your mouth too wide as this can cause more pain. Another way to relieve pain is with medication like Tylenol, and anti-inflammatories such as Advil. Another good medication often prescribed to patients with TMD is Naproxen, also known as Aleve. It’s also possible to get Naproxen as a prescription from your dentist or family physician. However, you should also be aware of the risks that come with frequent use of NSAIDs. Dr. Ali Ghahary has shared information on these risks which you can find by clicking here.

In some cases TMD can be chronic or reoccurring. If this is the case, you may need to be referred to a physician who specializes in dentistry with specific focus on the temporomandibular joint and temporomandibular disorder.