Temporomandibular Disorder can cause headaches, facial pain

By Dr. Shelia Shah

Do you suffer from persistent headaches? Do you ever experience facial pain, perhaps have difficulty with chewing, or have soreness or sounds coming from around the jaw joint near or in front of your ear? If so, you are not alone. Some studies estimate that 20-30% of people complain of Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) symptoms.

Perhaps you have heard of TMJ, which is the common abbreviation for the Temporomandibular Joint affected in those with TMD. Each person has two joints in the jaw which work together as a pair, one in front of each ear. These joints connect the lower mandible (or jaw bone) to each side of the head at the temporal bones of the skull. Muscles attached to these joints control the movement of the jaw in three directions: forward and backward, up and down, and side to side. In addition, a soft tissue disc between the jaw and the socket absorbs the shock from chewing and other movements. All of these things combined make this one of, if not the, most complicated joints in the body.

Inflammation, joint or soft tissue damage of the TMJ area may result in pain when a person speaks or attempts to chew. This is then called TMD. But, it may also be called myofascial pain disorder, referring to the pain within the muscles (myo-) and loose tissues (-fascia) of the face.

Some common causes for TMD include:
Bruxism (the technical term for teeth-clenching or grinding)
Inflammation
Joint damage
Misalignment
Poor posture (particularly that which affects the neck or face)

Of course, facial pain can be a symptom of many conditions other than TMD, but you should check with your oral health care professional to discuss any concerns. Your dentist may be able to assist with a proper diagnosis and offer a variety of solutions. Treatment is usually non-invasive and focuses on relieving symptoms. Mouth guards and orthodontic appliances to reposition the joint or other procedures may be recommended.

Meanwhile, some initial self-care therapy tips might include:
Doing gentle jaw-stretching exercises
Using gentle massage on the muscles of the face and jaw
Placing warm or cold packs to provide relief as needed
Avoiding overextension of the jaw by opening too wide
Resting the TMJ by avoiding tough or chewy foods and/or gum
Cultivating a relaxed jaw posture and avoiding grinding or clenching the teeth.

Living with pain on a daily basis can be debilitating and frustrating. It can affect many different aspects of life. That’s why MaconSmiles in Macon, GA, provides NTI (nociceptive trigeminal inhibitory) tension suppression systems and offers FREE TMJ Evaluations.

Please visit MaconSmiles.com for additional information. Whatever you do, don’t continue to suffer needlessly. Seek help.

A graduate of The Dental College at Augusta University, Dr. Sheila Shah has practiced dentistry since 1995. Dr. Shah is committed to staying on the cutting edge of the latest advancements in the field of dentistry and maintains memberships with such professional organizations as the Academy of Laser Dentistry, American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, American Dental Association and the Georgia Dental Association.

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