Many people struggle through life with headaches, jaw pain and trouble chewing without understanding why. These symptoms could be stemming from issues with the TMJ (temporomandibular joint.) The TMJ is the joint that slides and rotates in front of one's ear, consisting of the temporal bone and mandible (lower jaw.) When this joint becomes compromised through bruxism (clenching and grinding) or trauma, pain can become a chronic problem called TMD (Temporomandibular disorder.)
TMD can cause issues while chewing food, opening and closing the jaw, headaches, neck aches, muscle spasms and more. Unfortunately, there is no magic cure for chronic TMD. Most patients, even with treatment of symptoms, still may have days where symptoms worsen. Some patients may exhibit signs of bruxism or TMD, but may be unaware and experience no symptoms. This is normally discovered during dental examinations when wear on the teeth is present. It is recommended in these cases to treat so that further deterioration is prevented.
Usually, the best way to treat initially is to wear a custom fit night guard (also known as a “splint”) to help protect the teeth and to let the jaw rest overnight. These night guards are made by a dentist and lab. This requires two appointments; one for impressions and one to deliver the appliance. Most patients find that once they get used to wearing this at night, they start to have much better days, free of constant pain and irritation. Other ways to help lessen symptoms of TMD include warm moist compresses, anti-inflammatory medication, and a soft food diet.
If you feel you may be experiencing signs of bruxism or TMD, please give our office a call at 256-772-5757.
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