Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD)
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, or TMD for short, is a relatively common condition that can affect around 10% of the population. Typically, people describe this condition as a type of jaw pain or discomfort that can reach from the cheeks to the temple.
If you experience frequent or long-lasting pain in the jaw, you may want to investigate whether it could be linked to the jaw joint, aka the temporomandibular joint (TMJ for short). At Sydney Pelvic Clinic, we have a long experience in diagnosing and managing this specific jaw pain disorder.
What are the symptoms of TMD?
As mentioned, jaw pain is the first sign that you might have TMD. However, jaw pain can be caused by a variety of symptoms and may not be necessarily linked to this condition. So, at Sydney Pelvic Clinic, we strongly recommend paying attention to signs that would indicate that the pain is caused by TMJ pain (jaw joint pain).
- Headache around the temple or the base of the skull, especially in the morning
- Difficulties and pain when opening or closing the jaw, such as when you are eating or yawning
- Soreness when chewing or biting food
- Ear pain as if the ear is blocked
- Upper neck pain or neck stiffness
- Pain in the face in the morning.
How common is TMJ pain?
This type of jaw pain is common, with approximately 1 person in 10 experiencing at least one of the symptoms of TMD.
TMJ pain is often linked to excessive teeth grinding or clenching. This phenomenon is called bruxism and is prevalent in 20% of the adult population.
While TMD can affect both men and women, the condition is up to 5 x more common among women. It is unclear why, but doctors believe that high levels of oestrogen can cause the jaw ligament to become laxed.
Who is more at risk of developing TMD?
This type of jaw pain is connected to high jaw pressure. So, someone who frequently clenches their teeth could be more at risk because they put additional pressure on the TMJ (the jaw joint).
But pressure to the jaw can occur in many different forms, such as taking a direct blow to the jaw as part of sport activities or sustaining an accidental jaw injury. Additionally, enthusiastic chewing gum or pen chewers who chew for several hours every day are also at risk.
Finally, hypermobility in the jaw joint could also weaken it and cause pain.
There is not a single cause for developing TMJ pain. Therefore, being aware of the risks can help you address potentially dangerous habits and introduce jaw relaxation exercises in your routine.
How we diagnose TMD
Jaw pain is an indicator of possible TMJ pain, especially if it is persistent. However, doctors will need to take the full history of the pain to identify possible links with an event or your habits.
Specialists recommend observing the range of movement and its quality with mouth opening. We also suggest neck observation in terms of movement and posture. When you talk to a doctor about your jaw pain, they will often confirm the hypothesis by touching the jaw structure and muscles.
Following an accident or injury, X-ray can also prove helpful in spotting whether there is a fracture to the jaw.
What are TMJ pain treatment options?
If you have TMD, there are many possible treatments to help the pain. The success of TMJ pain treatments relies on identifying the elements that cause your pain.
TMJ pain treatment in clinic
At Sydney Pelvic Clinic, we focus essentially on educating our patients to help them understand what potentially causes the pain and how to prevent it by learning new habits.
We also teach specific retraining exercises to help open and shut the mouth more comfortably.
Finally, we ease pressure on the muscles and joint through gentle external and in-mouth releases.
TMJ pain treatment at home
You can also target the pain with exercises at home, such as learning self-release techniques for tense muscles around the jaw and neck. Mindful breathing techniques can also help release pressure. You can practise additional exercises for mouth opening and closing.
We always recommend also making an appointment with your dentist to assess the impact of bruxism on your teeth.
Tips and misconceptions about TMJ pain
Contrary to common belief, TMD is not linked to genetic factors. So, if a family member has jaw pain, there is no indication that you will always have it.
Some tips on how to protect your jaw and prevent pain include:
- Learning the TUTALC relaxed jaw position: Tongue Up, Teeth Apart, Lips Closed
- Not clicking your jaw
- Not resting your chin on your hand when sitting at a table
- Avoid hard and heavy chews for a couple of weeks when the first symptoms appear.
For any further queries about jaw pain, do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly reception team who can book you in for an initial assessment.