Are you feeling pain and discomfort in your jaw and the muscles around it? If so, you may want to visit your dentist to see if the pain you are feeling may be stemming from Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).
Dr. Kevin Sandefer and his team at Alon Dental Care have spent more than 15 years practicing dentistry, helping affected San Antonio community members find relief from their painful symptoms coming from TMD.
What is Temporomandibular Disorder?
The opening and closing of our jaws are controlled by muscles, most of which are attached to our temple, lower jaw, and upper jaw. Along with this structure, a hinged joint known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) also allows our lower jaw to open and conduct basic functions like talking and chewing.
Inside the joint is a cartilage pad that fits between the head of the mandible and the capsule of the temporal bone. Having problems or pain within this joint is known as TMD.
What Causes TMD?
There are a variety of issues that can cause TMD to develop, but the common denominator is tension on the TMJ or temporomandibular joint. The following are some of the known causes of TMD:
- Poor posture (may lead to neck and upper back strain, which can affect jaw function)
- Stress (causes one to tighten muscles around the face and clench their teeth)
- Misalignment of the jaw or teeth
- Grinding or clenching teeth
- Injury to the jaw or teeth
- Arthritis in the TMJ
- Dislocation of TMJ
Another problem that can lead to TMD is a malformation of the jaw and it’s joints when they are forming, either in infancy or early childhood.
Some patients may not have habits or problems that usually bring about TMD but can still experience unexpected jaw pain.
Take, for example, one of Dr. Sandefer’s past patients. A woman was experiencing persistent, and sometimes severe, jaw pain. Dr.Sandefer sat down with her to determine what the root cause of her TMD symptoms were, and he discovered that she had recently returned back to school to pursue a degree.
His patient felt like she couldn’t keep up with other classmates in her studies, and these feelings caused her stress.
High amounts of stress not only cause headaches and muscle pain, it also causes you to hold extra tension in your jaw and clench your teeth. Stress is also the leading reason as to why people grind their teeth at night.
3 Ways of Treating TMD
Dr. Sandefer has treated thousands of patients who have suffered from TMD and offers options for alleviating the burdensome pain. For less severe cases, TMD can be treated with a simple device called a bite guard.
- Bite Guard
A bite guard is an impact-resistant plastic plane with a soft inner lining. It is developed by taking a custom bite impression from the patient, which is then sent to the laboratory where a cast will be made. The bite guard will realign your jaw when you sleep and will prevent clenching.
As a result, your muscles should no longer feel sore, headaches should go away, and you should feel more rested the following day. For patients who grind their teeth during the day, Dr. Sandefer suggests a clear appliance that can be worn both day and night. This device boasts the same benefits as a night guard.
Another option for treatment is medication. Common and effective medications for the TMD are prescription strength pain relievers and anti-inflammatories (both steroidal and non steroidal). Typically, over-the-counter medications are not enough to alleviate the pain and discomfort of moderate to severe TMD.
Muscle relaxants are also an effective option that can help alleviate pain in the TMJ caused by muscle spasms. These can be taken only a few days or weeks at a time depending on when symptoms are the most burdensome.
If your TMD is severe enough that it has not responded to a bite guard or medication, you may need to resort to surgery. This is normally reserved to correct abnormalities or conditions that are degenerative (conditions that do not respond to treatment). If this is the case, you would need to be referred to a maxillo-facial surgeon to further diagnose and treat with surgery.
A San Antonio Family Dentist Prepared to Relieve Your TMD
If you experience sore jaw muscles, persistent headaches, or grind your teeth at night, call Alon Dental Care and schedule your appointment with Dr. Sandefer.
At Alon Dental we provide relief from TMD so you can enjoy a healthy, pain-free smile. Contact us at (210) 979-0707 today!