Do you suffer from frequent headaches? Feel a “popping” or “clicking” sensation in your jaw when you eat or talk? Deal with regular aches and pains in and around your jaw and lower ear? If so, you may have what is known as TMJD – or, temporal mandibular joint disorder.
What Is TMJD?
TMJD is a serious, and often progressive condition resulting from mechanical stress to the jaw and its surrounding muscles. It’s often caused by of an injury to the joint – usually, an injury you don’t even recall. For example, simply having your mouth extended too wide for too long a time (even at the dentist), or repeatedly chewing on ice cubes can contribute to TMJD-related pain.
In most patients we see, the disorder usually involves more than one symptom and rarely has a single cause. If you are experiencing symptoms you believe may be a result of TMJD, the TMJ Association recommends treating your symptoms gently, and suggests the following as potentially useful to curb pain.
Moist Heat: Use a warm compress (nothing too hot!), to reduce pain.
Ice: When using ice to decrease inflammation and numb pain, keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth prior to placing on your face. Do not use uncovered ice on the skin, and don’t use ice therapy beyond a 10 - 15 minute window.
Soft Diet: A soft diet can help, as can avoiding foods like corn on the cob and apples that require you to extend your mouth too wide.
Over the-Counter Analgesics: Over-the-counter pain medicines or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, may alleviate some discomfort.
Beyond the above recommendations, the best thing you can do is seek the advice of someone on your professional care team. Because TMJD is often progressive, ignoring the symptoms can cause your pain to escalate, and the imbalance it creates with your bite can cause excessive tooth wear and an uneven facial appearance. TMJD is something you shouldn’t self-diagnose, so if you find yourself experiencing regular bouts of pain and discomfort, schedule an appointment to see your doctor right away.