• Does it hurt when you chew or yawn?
• Do you have pain or discomfort in front of the ear, in the jaw muscles, cheek, teeth, or temples?
• Does your jaw click or pop when opening or closing your mouth?
• Do you find it difficult or painful to open your mouth wide?
• Does your jaw ever get stuck/locked as you open it?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). TMD is a group of conditions, often painful, that affect the jaw joint.
Signs may include:
• Radiating pain in the face, neck, or shoulders;
• Limited movement or locking of the jaw;
• Painful clicking or grating when opening or closing the mouth;
• A significant change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together;
• Headaches, earaches, dizziness, hearing problems and difficulty swallowing.
For most people, pain or discomfort in the jaw muscles or joints is temporary, often occurs in cycles, and resolves once you stop moving the area. Some people with TMD pain, however, can develop chronic symptoms.
What Causes TMD?
TMD falls into three categories:
• Discomfort or pain in the muscles of the jaw, neck, and shoulders
• A dislocated jaw or displaced disc
• Degenerative joint disease/arthritis of the jaw
Trauma to the jaw during a sporting activity and overuse syndromes, such as chewing gum excessively or chewing on one side of the mouth too frequently, may cause TMD. Also, TMD is common after a visit to the dentist and having to hold your mouth open for long periods of time.TMD Treatment
To treat TMD, chiropractors use manipulation, massage, hot/cold therapy or special exercises. In most cases, your doctor’s first goal is to relieve symptoms, particularly pain.
• Apply moist heat or a cold pack to lessen the pain. A cold pack is recommended shortly after the injury or onset of pain has started. To avoid further injury, the cold pack should not set directly on the skin, and should not be used longer than 20 minute intervals. In the later stages of healing, you may need to switch to moist heat, especially if you are still experiencing discomfort. Moist heat, opposed to dry heat applications, will reduce swelling, achiness, and stiffness that may affect the joint.
• Avoid harmful joint movements. For example, biting into a hard apple or carrot is just as bad as chewing on hard candy. Large sandwiches can also cause the mouth to open too wide and have a destabilizing effect on the jaw.
• Perform TMD-specific exercises. Depending on your condition, your chiropractor may recommend stretching or strengthening exercises. Stretching helps to relax tight muscles and strengthening helps to activate and tighten muscles that have become weak.