Pain When You Chew? It Could Be TMD

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to jaw discomfort. From chewing on hard foods to facial tension from stress, jaw discomfort is a miserable, often debilitating experience. While there can be many contributing factors, there are at least as many great treatments. At Eggert Family Dentistry, we have hands-on experience diagnosing and treating TMD, one of the most common jaw disorders. Understanding what TMD is as well as its symptoms is crucial to proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is TMD?

Although people often refer to this jaw disorder at TMJ, the correct reference is TMD. TMJ refers to the joint itself – the temporomandibular joint – which is responsible for controlling many jaw functions like chewing and talking. TMD is a disorder of this joint, a condition which can stem from a variety of behavioral, psychological and physical issues.

Causes

TMD has many possible causes some of which include stress, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, arthritis, jaw dislocation, injury to the jaw and poor jaw and tooth alignment. Teeth grinding is particularly problematic because it can lead to further problems, many tooth related. Prolonged grinding can cause enamel to wear off teeth and expose dentin, making teeth more susceptible to decay. It can also increase a person’s sensitivity to hot and cold.

Signs and Symptoms

There are many symptoms of TMD that mimic other medical issues. This can make TMD difficult to pinpoint. TMD symptoms include:

  • Pain when opening or closing the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Jaw becoming stuck open or shut
  • Headaches, migraines, ear pain, ringing in the ears, double vision
  • Clicking or popping sounds when opening the mouth
  • Teeth grinding
  • Wearing down or breaking of the teeth

Diagnosis

The above-listed symptoms can be attributed to a variety of health problems. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it’s best to start by visiting a medical professional for a whole body physical to rule out possible medical conditions. Keep in mind, however, that many medical professionals don’t fully understand how TMD can be a large part of your issue because they haven’t always been trained to make that connection. Especially if there is no concrete medical diagnosis, it is best to make an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff for a consultation. We can screen you for TMD with our comprehensive records process and offer relief for your symptoms through the treatment option that’s right for you!

Treatment

If, upon completion of your consult, we determine that you’re dealing with TMD, we have numerous avenues of treatment that can provide you with relief and alleviate your symptoms. Some common treatment options include:

  • A custom night guard/splint that can help lessen the effects of teeth grinding and deprogram muscle patterns
  • Behavioral treatments and muscle therapies that change the way you use your jaw and muscles
  • Full-time splint therapy to provide full-time relief
  • Appliances to improve your airway
  • Full-mouth reconstruction to improve tooth position
  • Orthodontic treatment that may or may not include oral jaw surgery

Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will also talk with you about some easy ways you can partner with us to get to the root of your symptoms and experience relief. Ideas include practicing relaxation techniques to alleviate stress, avoiding chewing gum or nail-biting, eating softer foods and incorporating hot/cold compresses to the jaw.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, mouth comfort is one of our highest priorities. If you think you’re experiencing the uncomfortable effects of TMD, schedule an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff by calling us at 651.482.8412!