If you experience ongoing pain in the area near your ear, your jaw or the muscles on the side of your face, possibly accompanied by a clicking or popping sound or restricted jaw movement, you may be suffering from TMD — an abbreviation for Temporomandibular Disorders. TMD describes a group of conditions characterized by pain and dysfunction of the TMJ and/or the muscles surrounding it. As with any other joint, the TMJ can be subject to orthopedic problems including inflammation, sore muscles, strained tendons and ligaments, and disk problems. We also know that TMD is influenced by genes, gender (women appear to be more prone to it), and age. Physical and psychological stress can also be a factor.
For many patients, teeth grinding, plays a role in their TMD symptoms. Often times teeth grinding occurs while you are asleep, which results in your temporomandibular joint becoming overused. This overuse can lead to headaches, sore joints and often a rapid decline in your dental health.
If you experience any of these symptoms several treatment options are available to help. While common pain relievers and cold compresses can provide temporary relief for minor cases of TMD, more severe cases may require treatment with a mouth guard, orthodontics, or in the most extreme cases, oral surgery.