Millions of Americans suffer from chronic facial and neck pain as well as recurring headaches. In some cases, this pain is due to Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD.

Your temporomandibular joints connect your lower jawbone to your skull. One of the most prominent nerves in the body is the trigeminal nerve. It runs from the spinal cord, through the skull, and into the jaw.

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. Therefore, it is common for the trigeminal nerve to become irritated, inflamed, and painful as a result.

Symptoms of TMD Include:

  • Pain in the jaw area
  • Pain, ringing, or stuffiness in the ears
  • Frequent headaches or neck aches
  • Clicking or popping sound when the jaw moves
  • Swelling on the sides of the face
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw area
  • A change in the alignment of top and bottom teeth
  • Locked jaw or limited opening of the mouth

Should you notice any of these symptoms, let your doctor know. Your dentist can help indicate the presence of TMD and create an effective treatment just for you.

There are a few simple steps you can take at home or work to prevent TMD from becoming more severe, or to prevent it from occurring:

  • Relax your face — remember the rule: “Lips together, teeth apart”
  • Avoid grinding your teeth
  • Avoid constant gum chewing
  • Don’t cradle the phone receiver between your head and shoulder — either use a headset or hold the receiver in your hand
  • 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

What happens if my TMD is left untreated?

TMD never goes away on its own. In fact, symptoms will only worsen. Headaches may become more frequent, with pain that intensifies. Many medical professionals misdiagnose TMD and end up treating only the pain itself by masking it with medication. While this approach does provide some relief for patients, it does nothing to reduce the frequency of pain. Not until the problem is treated at the source, which is the TMD, will pain cease and not reoccur.

How is TMD treated?

At Triangle Periodontics, we often treat patients with periodontal disease that results in missing teeth. It is important to provide a tooth replacement as soon as possible, to prevent the occurrence of TMD. However, if we detect TMD is present in a patient, it is important to treat it, and then take action to prevent it from coming back again.

Treatment may include reconstructing your smile to ensure you have a stable bite. Or, you may need to wear a custom-made mouthguard to protect your teeth from bruxism (clenching and grinding your teeth while sleeping). Bruxism is often a result of stress. However, keep in mind that treatment will vary, depending on the severity of your condition.

If you would like to learn more about TMD, contact the office of Triangle Periodontics by calling 919-782-9536 to schedule a consultation.

Triangle Periodontics welcomes patients of Apex, Cary, and Raleigh, North Carolina.