Millions of Americans suffer from chronic facial and neck pain as well as severe, recurring headaches. In some cases, this pain is due to Temporomandibular Disorder, also known as TMD.
Your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, connect your lower jawbone to your skull. These joints get a lot of use throughout the day as you speak, chew, swallow, and yawn. Pain in and around these joints can be unpleasant and may even restrict movement.
Symptoms of TMD include:
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a combination of signs and symptoms that are associated with movement of the jaw and the bite. There are two broad classifications of signs and symptoms:
1. Inside the joint. This would be popping, clicking, lack of mobility, locking, and pain. It is often associated with a torn or stretched ligament and inflammation.
2. Head and neck muscle pain and dental problems. The bite is integral in keeping muscles in balance. If the bite has problems then muscles work harder to compensate and eventually become painful. Headaches are often associated with bite and muscle problems.
If you notice that you are experiencing any of these symptoms, let Dr. Elliott know at your next appointment at our Highlands Ranch or Burlington, CO orthodontic office. He can help determine if you have TMD and create a customized treatment plan to help relieve your symptoms.
Treatment of TMD
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a complex problem, and there are many diverse ways to treat it. Over 36 years of practice and study, Dr. Elliott has found several diagnostic and treatment systems which work well to sort out the problem and find lasting solutions for his patients.
- We use appliances (splints or orthotics) which are very comfortable to wear and continually adjusted to keep up with changes in the bite as muscles relax and the joint heals.
- We use physical therapy modalities such as ultrasound, “spray and stretch” muscle therapy, and home-care instructions on a specific massage techniques to manage sore muscles and trigger points.
Not all jaw pain is associated with TMD.
If you feel that you might have TMD, it is always important to see Dr. Elliott and receive an exam. However, not all jaw pain is associated with TMD, and if you do not have TMD there are many different preventive steps you can take to maintain a healthy, strong smile.
- Relax your face — "Lips together, teeth apart"
- Avoid grinding your teeth
- Avoid all gum chewing
- Don't cradle the phone receiver between your head and shoulder — either use a headset or hold the receiver to your ear
- Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth
- Do not sit with your chin rested on your hand
- Practice good posture — keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared
Many people get TMD without ever having braces. Symptoms usually wax and wane regardless of whether braces are worn. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above and are concerned that you're a candidate for TMD treatment, please contact our Highlands Ranch or Burlington, CO office for a consultation.