Temporomandibular disorder, also known as Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome or TMJ, is a common complaint among people who go to their dentist for jaw pain. Frequently, the symptoms of this syndrome include headaches and ear pain. It occurs when the jaw and the teeth don’t align. These pains occur because of the tension and stress that this misalignment causes in vulnerable patients. It can be a frustrating and annoying condition, because these pains don’t ever go away or subside when over-the-counter painkillers are administered.
Often, head pain that begins in the early morning is a sign of TMD or TMJ. The headaches can develop similarly to migraines, especially the longer they go untreated. If you have pain in your temples, or pain anywhere in your neck or shoulders, again with no obvious cause and without any sort of response to painkillers, these can also be signs of TMD. An additional sign of this disorder is frequent clenching of the teeth or bruxism, tooth-grinding.
There are many potential treatments for this disorder. One of the ways this disorder is addressed is through the use of a special TMJ guard for the mouth. The patient wears this device during sleep and will find that it helps prevent tooth grinding. Other therapies for dealing with this disorder include behavioral approaches that teach patients better ways cope with stress. This approach can reduce the amount of stress-related tooth clenching that people with TMJ often experience. It may help their headaches and tension, as well.
In order to diagnose TMJ or TMD, dentists will have the patient’s bite analyzed to be certain that they are a candidate for the therapy. This analysis will determine whether the patient’s bite has the proper alignment. Patients who are being examined for TMJ will also be given a full examination.