Some of those headaches you’re experiencing may originate at the joints of your jaw. Called temporomandibular joint disorder, this condition can affect your head, eating, earaches, and speaking. Sylvan S. Stern, DDS, of Southfield, Michigan, can diagnose disorders in the way your jaw moves. This leads to treatments to correct your bite and relieve your symptoms. Call or click today to make an appointment.
Your lower jaw connects to your skull at a pair of sliding hinge joints, called the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Typically, you’ll never think about the motion of your jaw, since it usually works without trouble. When a disorder arises, it can cause pain in the joint itself or the surrounding muscles that control jaw movement.
Causes for temporomandibular disorder, or TMD, may be hard to pinpoint sometimes. Problems can arise from genetic conditions, injuries to the mouth or jaw, or even arthritis developing in the TMJ. Sometimes, teeth clenching or grinding is associated with TMD, but there are also those who have no discomfort or pain.
TMD pain is usually temporary. If it doesn’t clear on its own in a few days, Dr. Stern will make an additional assessment and suggest an effective treatment path.
There are several techniques typically used to gauge how well your TMJ functions. Dr. Stern usually starts with a muscle relaxation appliance to assess the path of your jaw movement under ideal conditions. A digital recording device then determines the timing and strength of current tooth contact. Additionally, Dr. Stern may use dental imaging to identify irregularities below the surface.
It’s not unusual for TMDs to clear up spontaneously, particularly in the absence of a physical cause, such as arthritis. Dr. Stern may prescribe anti-inflammatories to assist natural healing of the joint.
In more advanced cases, oral splints or mouth guards may prove beneficial, though the reasons why these appliances are effective aren’t fully understood. It may come down to something as simple as the change of motion these devices create.
Physical therapy may also play a role, such as using heat and cold to the TMJ joint area to stimulate natural healing, using heat to increase blood flow, and to reduce inflammation, using ice to contract swollen tissue. Self-massage and stretching exercises can strengthen the muscles supporting the jaw, taking some of the burden off the joint itself.
Small changes to lifestyle may have big benefits, such as cutting food into smaller pieces or avoiding sticky candy to give your TMJ an easier job.