Hi everyone!

I get quite a few questions about TMJ so that is this weeks blog topic. Your TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, are the hinges in front of your ears that connect your lower teeth and jaw bone to your head so you can chew and talk. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) describes a variety of conditions that affect your jaw muscles, your TMJ’s and the nerves associated with chronic facial pain.

TMD affects more than twice as many women than men, and symptoms may occur on one or both sides of the face, head or jaw, and show up as headaches, jaw pain, limited jaw movement, or nerve pain (neuralgias). Trauma to the jaw or jaw joint sometimes plays a role in TMD (i.e., whiplash), but in many cases the cause of the disorder is unknown.

Certain habits, such as holding a phone between your shoulder and cheek, resting your chin on you hand while working at a desk, or even holding a pipe between your teeth can contribute to the problem. Most experts suggest that physical, mental or emotional stress plays a large role also, particularly that which brings about jaw clenching or grinding teeth (bruxism).

In addition, if your bite is misaligned from missing or crooked teeth or you have had restorative dentistry that doesn’t fit your bite you are at high risk. Symptoms of TMJ Syndrome or TMD are:

    • Jaw pain or soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon
    • Jaw pain when you chew, bite or yawn
    • Clicking when opening and closing your mouth
    • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
    • Locked or stiff jaw when you talk, yawn or eat
    • Sensitive teeth when no dental problems can be found
    • An earache without an infection
    • Headaches or migraines that are not vascular, but muscular and stress related.

The majority of cases resolve with time on their own, but especially helpful are:

  • Moist heat (a hot washcloth) applied to the side of the face 3-6 times/day for 10-15 minutes
  • Soft diet (no hard or chewy foods) and no gum chewing
  • Anti-inflammatory medications like Motrin (ibuprofen) 600-800 mg 3-4 times/day for up to a week.

More severe or longer lasting cases or persistent headaches can be treated with orthopedic appliance therapy (a bite splint or occlusal guard) which we can fabricate for you. Occasionally we recommend stronger prescription anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants, physical therapy and reconstructive or restorative dentistry to “build up” a collapsed bite.

If you have persistent headaches or any other symptoms of TMD and need help, please call my office in Southfield at 248-356-8790 and arrange a visit with me to discuss your best options. I would love to help relieve any TMJ related pain you are experiencing.

Until next time,

Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD