Frequent headaches can put a real damper on your lifestyle. You might be getting ready for a fun evening out (Carmel, IN has no shortage of great things to see and do after all), then BAM: you’ve got a severe headache and your plans will have to change, or you’ll simply resign yourself to missing out.
Headaches and other frequent pain have a virtually limitless list of potential causes. One very common cause behind these problems is a disorder known as TMD, or temporomandibular disorder. Your Really Smile dentist can help you determine if you’re suffering from TMD and provide you with a variety of treatments and therapies to help control the symptoms of TMD.
What is TMD?
You may have also heard this disorder referred to as TMJ. Technically, TMJ is the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint, which is the focus of TMD symptoms. TMD can cause a lot of pain and difficulty for those who suffer from it (we’ll get into the specific symptoms shortly). TMD is a very common but painful condition that can drastically reduce your quality of life. About 3 million cases of TMD are diagnosed every year in the US alone.
Okay, So What is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is found on both sides of your head, is what connects your jaw to the bones in front of each ear (these bones are called the temporal bones, which play a role in protecting your brain as well as providing structural support for your face, specifically your temples). The TMJ is a ball-and-socket joint, and is responsible for facilitating up-and-down and side-to-side movements of the jaw. This makes the TMJ anatomically very significant when you chew, talk, yawn, or laugh; basically, any time you might need to “open wide”.
What Causes TMD?
The exact physiological reasons as to why you might develop TMD is still unknown. However, strong correlations to certain factors, such as injury, disease, and even lifestyle have been established.
Serious injuries that might cause TMD to develop include:
- Whiplash (due to an auto accident, for example)
- A Slipped Disc (between the ball and socket that make up the TMJ is a disc made of cartilage. Cartilage is similar to bone but is not as hard and rigid; cartilage is more soft and helps to absorb shocks and to prevent the parts of the joint from scraping together. You have similar discs in your back, and just as you might have known a person who has suffered from a slipped disc in their back, the disc in the TMJ can also slip)
Diseases that might cause TMD to develop include:
Arthritis (chronic inflammation in the joints)
Gum Disease (gum disease, or periodontal disease, is very common and very serious: an estimated 22 million people have it, and it is the number one cause of tooth loss; gum disease weakens the tissues and bones in your oral cavity, which might lead to TMD symptoms)
Bruxism (More commonly known as teeth-grinding; however, TMD might even cause you to have bruxism as a complication and not necessarily the cause).
In terms of your lifestyle, excessive or ineffectively managing stress can also be a big contributor to TMD symptoms (and a number of other problems, including bruxism).
What Are The Symptoms I Can Look Out For?
Getting a proper diagnosis of TMD is somewhat challenging, because the symptoms of the disorder are very similar to a number of other ailments that could even be more serious than TMD, such as Lyme disease.
However, there are symptoms that you can watch for, and if you observe them, you should come in immediately for an evaluation (even if only to eliminate TMD as a possibility).
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Frequent pain, including headaches (that seem to “radiate” from the temples), toothaches, neck pain, or pain in the upper shoulders, and/or the face and jaws; pain will also seem to be located around or even in the ear (and may feel like an ear infection)
- Fatigue in the face and/or jaw
- Difficulty “opening wide”, or pain when it is attempted. Alternatively, your jaw has a tendency to “lock up”, either when the mouth is open or closed.
- A sense that your bite is somehow “off” (caused potentially by a failure of the jaws to align properly)
- Swelling on the sides of the face
- An audible clicking or popping sound when the jaws are moved
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Tingling in the fingers and extremities
- Teeth are showing considerable signs of wear; teeth may appear to be “shorter” as a result (TMD can go undetected for years; over time, the protective layer of enamel can be worn off to the point that the softer part of your tooth is exposed; it takes years to wear down enamel, but once that is gone, the inside of the tooth will wear down much faster)
What Can My Dentist Do?
Your Really Smile dentist can provide you with a TMD diagnosis, and based on your specific needs, create a program of treatment to help manage, and ideally, eliminate the recurring symptoms of TMD. The diagnosis may require the use of our advanced imaging technology, as well as an in-depth look at your overall health history, in addition to evaluating the symptoms as they are presented.
Think Your Frequent Pain is Caused by TMD?
Give us a call and schedule an appointment! TMD pain can be eliminated, but it needs to be diagnosed correctly first; if you’re seeing what appear to be familiar symptoms in this post, you should seek help from your dentist as soon as possible. The faster you fix the problem, the faster you can start enjoying life more!
Call us today at 317-597-8748 or click here for our online appointment form to book your visit now.