tmd-can-anything-help-relieve-painTMD or temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a phrase used to describe the dysfunction of the muscles of mastication (the jaw muscles) and the pain associated with it, along with a problem of the temporomandibular joints (the joints connecting the mandible to the skull). The most prominent feature of TMD is pain, often followed by restricted mandibular movement and noises in the joint when the jaw moves. TMD does not usually indicate a serious problem; however, it can diminish life quality due to some of the symptoms.

TMD is not a single condition but rather a set of signs and symptoms occurring together to make up a particular disease or disorder. It is considered to be caused by a number of different factors, although they are not very well understood and no one can seem to agree on which order of importance they should be in. This makes caring for the condition a real challenge.

TMD affects about 20 to 30 percent of the adult population, generally those in the age range of 20 to 40 years. Women seem to experience TMD more often than men. It is ranked as the second most frequent cause of dental pain or orofacial pain, with a toothache being the first.

What Category Does TMD Fall Into?

There are four major symptom complexes in chronic orofacial pain. Some consider TMD among these. They are:

  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Atypical facial pain
  • Atypical odontalgia
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Some refer to TMD as a functional pain syndrome and a psychogenic disorder, while others say it is a central sensitivity syndrome. This goes along with an interesting hypothesis that TMD is closely related to other pain syndromes such as:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • IBS — irritable bowel syndrome
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Chronic lower back and neck pain

These conditions often co-exist, and they are theorized to be caused by centrally mediated sensitivity to pain.

Symptoms of TMD

The following symptoms indicate you may have a problem with your jaw joint:

  • Clicking and popping of the jaw when you chew
  • Popping in the ears
  • Ear pain or an earache
  • Locking of the jaw joint
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sore, stiff jaw muscles
  • Pain in the temple area
  • Trouble chewing or an uncomfortable bite as if your teeth are not fitting right
  • Swelling on one side of your face
  • Problems opening your mouth wide
  • A tired feeling in your face
  • Pain or tenderness in your jaw joint area, face, shoulders and neck, in or around your ear, especially when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
  • Pain that feels like a toothache
  • Tinnitus — ringing or popping sounds in the ears
  • A feeling of congestion in the ears
  • Blurry vision
  • Pain at the base of the tongue
  • Pain, swelling, or a lump in the temple area
  • Dizziness or vertigo

Causes of TMD

The temporomandibular joint has a hinge joint that works with sliding motions. The areas of the bone that interact with the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small disc that absorbs shock so as to keep the motion smooth. Movement can become painful if any of the following occur:

  • The disc moves out of its original alignment or erodes
  • The joint becomes damaged by being hit
  • Arthritis causes the joint to become damaged

There have been some theories that suggest TMD may come about after physical trauma, such as whiplash. This type of TMD is referred to as posttraumatic TMD.

Is There Any Way to Care for TMD at Home?

There are a few things you can do at home to try to relieve the pain of TMD. They include:

  • Icing or using cold packs on the jaw joint
  • Choosing soft foods over those that are crunchy or chewy
  • Not chewing gum
  • Doing some gentle stretching of the jaw and neck muscles or massage the area
  • Managing stress and practice relaxation methods

TMJ Pain Relief Columbus

Finding Professional Help for TMD

Sometimes the pain of TMD does not go away on its own or by using home remedies, and a professional must be consulted. By seeking the care of a dentist, he or she may try to work with you to adjust your bite. A medical doctor may suggest anti-inflammatories or some other type of medication. He or she might even recommend surgery if the problem is very severe. Surgery should always be considered as a last resort, however. Another area of care to be given serious consideration is that of upper cervical chiropractic care. But, does it work?

A 39-year-old female was suffering from severe jaw pain, along with pain in her head and neck for quite a few years. She said she repeatedly ground her teeth and had worn them down to nubs. She had visited a number of chiropractors and dentists in the past, but she was unable to find relief. She was eventually referred to an upper cervical chiropractor. It was discovered during her examination that she had an upper cervical injury. She had previously been involved in a few cervical traumas, including a vehicle accident that could have caused the injury to her neck. Within 2 weeks of cervical care, she began to see a major improvement in her jaw, head, and neck pain. Over the next 2 months, her spine became stabilized, and her jaw began to heal. Ultimately, all of her symptoms ceased to exist.

At Atlas Family Health Center in Columbus, Ohio, we use a special technique to help realign the top vertebrae in the neck. It is a gentle method that does not require us to pop or crack the neck to get results. This often leads to the relief of TMD and many other health problems.