The temporomandibular joint is the hinge that connects your upper and lower jaw. It allows you to open and close your mouth and gives you a bite. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) can affect anyone and needs treating quickly before eating and talking becomes too painful.
What is TMJD?
TMJD is the name given to problems occurring in the bone or muscles of the joint. The symptoms vary, as do the causes. But common causes include:
- Injury to the joint, through sport or an accident.
- Grinding or clenching of the muscles, which can be a reaction to stress.
- Incorrect positioning of teeth so the teeth of the upper and lower jaw don't meet correctly.
- Anything which may put extra pressure on the joint.
The symptoms of TMJD can include:
- The sound of grinding when you move your jaw.
- Pain when you open your mouth.
- Lockjaw, when your jaw becomes stuck when opening or closing.
- Earache or a ringing in the ear.
How to fix TMJD
The solution to your TMJD will depend on the cause. If there is a problem with your tooth alignment, a dentist will be able to refer you to an orthodontist to fix it, or to a doctor if a medical condition is found.
Getting rid of bad habits and stress
The most common cause of TMJD is clenching or grinding due to stress or incorrect posture when sitting at work.
If you sit at your desk cupping your chin in your hand, and that's the side of your face that had begun to hurt, then you should change your posture immediately. Sit up with your elbows at your side and avoid putting any pressure on your jaw.
Often, people suffering from stress don't realise they're clenching their jaw muscles or grinding their teeth. Your doctor should be able to help with this, especially if you do these habits in your sleep and cannot control it. Your doctor may give you a mouth guard to protect your mouth during the night and offer behavioral therapy to help you break the habit. When you're awake, you can try relaxation techniques to help take the pressure off your jaw. Exercise can also be a great way to de-stress and distract you from whatever is causing you stress.
If your stress or bad habit is proving difficult to shift, then hypnosis or counselling can help you to understand why you're stressed or why you feel the need to continue the bad habit. Breaking these cycles can be hard work, but ultimately it will be worth it in the end to be able to eat and speak pain free.
TMJD can be painful and scary, but it often has an easy fix. Don't suffer needlessly, speak to your dentist and get rid of that pain in your jaw.