Temporomandibular Disorder, also known as TMD, is a condition that affects the jaw, ear, throat and neck. TMD mainly impacts the temporomandibular joint, which is the hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. In the past, TMD was referred to as TMJ, referencing the joint. TMD causes pain and tenderness in the face and jaw area. You may hear clicking or popping sounds when you open your mouth or chew. You may even experience swelling in your face.
TMD is most common in adults ages 20 to 40. It can be temporary or last for years. Even though the cause may not be clear, the pain is very real.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options for TMD. You may want to talk to your dentist about the treatment options to find what will work most effectively for you. Here are few tried-and-true methods to reduce pain and discomfort.
Medications: Over-the-counter medications, such as naproxen or ibuprofen, can often help with pain and swelling. If those don’t work, your healthcare provider may have other options, such as muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants, which can help reduce stress.
Night guards: Your dentist can help you find or customize a plastic mouthpiece that helps you reduce clenching and grinding your mouth while you sleep. You can also get a splint that can be worn all the time.
Dental work: Repairing your teeth and treating gum disease can also reduce the stress on your jaw. If you have a bite issue, repairing it can help your pain.
Changing your lifestyle may also help your TMD. Eating soft foods that are cut into small pieces let you chew less. Avoid crunchy and chewy foods that make you open your mouth wide and require a lot of chewing. You should avoid yawning and yelling, things that make you use your jaw strenuously.
Ice packs combined with moist heat can help relieve pain and swelling. Apply an ice pack to the jaw for about 10 minutes. Then use a warm towel applied to the face for about five minutes. You can do this several times a day to alleviate pain.
Practice good posture during the day. Learn to keep your teeth slightly apart to control clenching during the day. You should also try to relax your jaw and neck. Massage or physical therapy can often help you learn techniques that relieve pain.