Headache? Probably just a cold. Neck ache? Must’ve slept on it wrong. Earache? Hopefully not another sinus infection. Waking up with any of these symptoms isn’t the best start to the morning, but you don’t think much of it. You definitely don’t assume it’s temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)! Even when you finally ask your dentist about a toothache or teeth sensitivity, it’s probably not because you’re worried about TMD. Who can say “temporomandibular,” anyway?
But when you’re dealing with TMD, headache doesn’t begin to describe the tightness, heaviness and pain around your head, seemingly for no reason. It’s difficult to address, too, because some of the most obvious symptoms can be mistakenly attributed to other causes.
TMD is super common though, so it’s important to be aware of possible symptoms and how you can address those symptoms.
What’s the Difference Between TMD and TMJ?
If you’ve been Googling around for some answers, you’ve probably seen both “TMD” and “TMJ” used to explain problems with the jaw. So, what’s the difference? TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, while TMD refers to temporomandibular joint disorder. The temporomandibular joint – TMJ – is one of the hardest working joints in the body. It’s the joint that allows you to open and close your mouth. Just think about how much work the TMJ does to chew a piece of bubble gum!
That’s why TMD – or, the disorder that results from a misaligned TMJ – is so common. Although the cause of TMD isn’t always obvious, prolonged grinding of teeth or clenching of the jaw can both lead to TMD.
How Do I Know If I Have TMD?
There are other symptoms of TMD beyond headaches, neck aches and earaches, of course. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Frequent headaches or migraines.
- Experiencing pain around your face, jaw, neck and shoulders, or ears.
- General tooth sensitivity.
- Popping sounds from the jaw when you open or close your mouth.
- Difficulty chewing or discomfort when biting down.
How Can I Fix TMD?
Go to your dentist! Since some symptoms of TMD can be caused by other conditions, the first thing your dentist will do is examine your jaw joints and test your bite. Then, he or she may also take x-rays to confirm that you’re suffering from TMD and not something else.
Neuromuscular dentistry is the answer to TMD. With state-of-the-art technology, dentists can determine if your jaw is misaligned and exactly how to position your jaw so that you don’t wake up in pain every morning. There are many ways to treat TMD, depending on the particular cause and symptoms. Some of those treatment options include rest, a night guard, medication or physical therapy. It’s also important to evaluate lifestyle factors that impact your jaw joint. Stress can cause you to grind your teeth or clench your jaw, which makes TMD even worse.
If you’re experiencing the painful symptoms of TMD and want to learn more about neuromuscular dentistry, come talk to Dr. Blaine McLaughlin and the team at Dental Touch Associates in Cedar Rapids.