Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) describe a set of conditions that involve trouble with your jaw and face muscles. They result from a problem in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is a hinge that connects the temporal bones, in your skull in front of each ear, to your jaw. The joint enables you to talk, yawn, and chew by letting your mouth move.
TMD can be very painful and interfere with functions such as eating and speaking. This what to watch for and how to try to prevent TMD.
Risk Factors for TMD
You are at higher risk for TMD if you are a women than if you are male. The disorder is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Other risk factors for TMJ disorders include the following.
- Arthritis in the area, making movement more difficult
- Excessive tooth grinding, because it increases stress on the joint
- General stress, which can lead you to clench your teeth and strain facial muscles
Symptoms of TMD
Symptoms of TMD can last for just a short while, or for several years. Seeing the doctor is important if your symptoms make it impossible for you to eat regularly or if you have unbearable pain or discomfort. The following symptoms can occur on both or one side of your face.
- Aching or very tired facial muscles
- Jaws that are fixed open or shut without you being able to unlock them
- Grating or popping sounds when you chew or close or open your mouth
- Pain in the entire area, including the mouth, jaw, neck, or shoulders, that comes on when you chew or yawn
You can try to prevent TMD by focusing on reducing risk factors. If you grind your teeth at night, ask the doctor about wearing a mouthguard. If you are overly stressed, look into ways to better manage your stress and relax your muscles. Another strategy for trying to prevent the development of TMD is to avoid chewing gum, since that puts stress on your jaw.
If you have questions about TMD, don’t hesitate to contact our WASHINGTON, District of Columbia office.