Do you suffer from any of the following: headaches or earaches, especially in the morning? Biting or chewing difficulty or discomfort? Clicking or popping sound when opening or closing the mouth? Reduced ability to open or close the mouth? Unexplained neck and shoulder pain?
If any or all of the above symptoms fit you, it’s possible that the root cause of these symptoms is TMD or Temporomandibular joint disorder. In simple terms TMD refers to an imbalance in the joint where your jaw bone meets the skull.
Why would an imbalance in your jaw cause earaches, headaches or even face and neck pain?
The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is special for a couple of reasons. First, unlike the joint of your finger which allows movement in a single direction, the TMJ also allows movement from side to side. This is needed for chewing food –as you’ll notice that you not only bite up and down but also side to side. The second is that is contains no pain sensors where the bone meets cartilage. Therefore if there’s stress on the TMJ it’s not felt there, but rather in surrounding areas. This shows up as headaches, earaches, facial pain, even neck and shoulder pain.
What causes TMD?
There are several possible reasons for the TMD, a few of them being: repetitive unconscious clenching or grinding of teeth at night, injuries from falls or sports, misaligned tooth surfaces, excessive gum chewing or nail biting or degenerative joint disease.
Is there a cure for TMD?
The correct diagnosis of TMD is the first challenge. Up until quite recently, little was known about the effects of TMD. Also, most people visit a physician for the types of pain associated with TMD and many physicians are not aware of this potential cause.
The symptoms of TMD can be alleviated once the correct cause of the disorder is identified. In fact there is now a whole branch of dentistry dedicated to the detection and care of TMD called Neuromuscular Dentistry. Since it is a specialized field of dentistry, it’s important to be referred to a dentist who has been properly trained in Neuromuscular Dentistry.