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Unlocking The Solution To TMD

Unlocking The Solution To TMD
by Dr. Stephen J. Parr D.D.S.

Read Unlocking The Solution To TMD by Dr. Stephen J. Parr D.D.S. to learn more about Grove Smiles® Dentistry and our Dentistry office in Coconut Grove, FL.

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Does your jaw ache when you chew, or when you open your mouth wide to yawn?  

Do you hear clicking or popping sounds loud enough to worry or bother you?  

Does your jaw ever lock up as you open it?  

Do you experience soreness or stiffness in your jaw after you awaken in the morning, or recurring pain in the muscles of the cheeks, neck or temples?  

If your answer is “yes” to a few of these questions, you may have a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

TMD is the name for a group of conditions that are characterized by pain and dysfunction in the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ), where the jaw bone (mandible) meets the temporal bone (a part of the skull.) In fact, the condition is often incorrectly called “TMJ” — but TMJ actually refers to the joint itself.  Everyone has two of them, one left and one right, but not everyone has TMD.

Understanding TMD Symptoms

Pain or discomfort in the jaw muscles or joints is usually temporary for most people. The discomfort often occurs in cycles, and resolves once you stop moving the area.  Some people with TMD pain, however, can develop chronic symptoms.

Chronic symptoms may include:

  • Increasing pain or soreness in the front of your ear, in your jaw muscle, cheek, your teeth or your temples;
  • Limited movement or challenge to open your mouth wide;
  • Locking of the jaw;
  • Painful clicking or grating when opening or closing the mouth;
  • A substantial difference in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together;
  • Frequent headaches, earaches, dizziness, hearing problems and difficulty swallowing.

If you suffer with one or more of these symptoms, it is important that a dental professional, such as your trusted dentist, help you establish whether your pain is due to TMD and then provide the proper treatment if needed.

Why Does TMD Occur?

Researchers agree that TMD falls into three categories:

  • Myofascial pain – a discomfort or an ache in the muscles of the jaw, neck, and shoulders;
  • A dislocated jaw or displaced disc;
  • Degenerative joint disease – rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis in the jaw joint.

Serious injury to the jaw is a leading cause of TMD. For instance, anything from a blow to the jaw during a sporting activity to repetitive overuse, such as chewing gum excessively or chewing on one side of the mouth too often, may cause TMD.

Both physical and emotional stress can lead to TMD, as well.  The once common process of sitting in a dentist’s chair for several hours with the mouth wide open may have been partly responsible to TMD in the past.  Now, most dentists are aware that this is harmful behavior for the jaw. Not only are they now taking breaks while they do dental work, but today’s dentists scan patients for any weaknesses in the jaw structure that would cause physical injury if they keep their mouths open very long.  In case of this, they may use medications during the procedure to reduce the injury potential.  In less severe cases, they guide patients through exercises they can do at home to loosen up the joint after the visit.

While emotional stress itself is not usually the root cause of TMD, the body’s reactions to the stress can be. When people are under psychological stress, they may clench their teeth. Clenching teeth with upper and lower jaws that have never fit well together could just be a major factor in their TMD.

Research has also shown women experience TMD four times more often than men.

Treating and Diagnosing TMD

Diagnosing or ruling out TMD is not difficult. Your dentist may ask you to open and close your mouth repeatedly while the he/she monitors the dimensions of the jaw joint and the balance of the muscles. They will also be looking for signs of inflammation and any abnormalities. If you have no problems while doing these things, then the problem is not likely to be TMD.   But often special imaging or an x-ray may be needed to help confirm the diagnosis.

If you have TMD, your dentist may recommend massage, applying heat/ice and special stretching or strengthening exercises.  In most cases, your dentist’s first target is to relieve symptoms, in particular pain. If your dentist feels that you need special appliances for instance night guards against teeth grinding, he or she will make those specific recommendations.

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At Grove Smiles Dentistry in Coconut Grove, FL, we love creating generations of healthy teeth and happy smiles for the wonderful families of our community.

 

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For Your Health,

Dr. Stephen J. Parr D.D.S.

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Grove Smiles® Dentistry

Dr. Stephen J. Parr D.D.S., P.A.
2685 Bird Avenue
Coconut Grove, FL 33133
Phone: 305-858-0505
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