Three in four Americans suffer from symptoms that are associated with a temporomandibular problem. These range from migraine headaches, ringing in the ears to clicking in their jaws. Severity ranges from annoying to extremely debilitating.
Yet, specialists say that only five to ten percent of people actually need treatment. All too often, patients fail to have the problem looked at in detail and chose to undergo costly, painful and time consuming treatments that may actually not do much to fix their symptoms.
This brings up parallels with back pain and the advent of MRI machines. Suddenly, doctors could diagnose more slipped disks of which the recommended treatment sometimes was expensive surgery coupled with an extensive rehab.
The thing is, many of those people didn’t need the surgery. This is also the case with the TMD problems. The body is extremely resilient and will fix the problems themselves.
Sometimes patience is the key.
Originally, these types of problems were thought to stem from dental malocclusion or a misalignment of the teeth. Later studies however revealed that it wasn’t necessarily the case. Experts now say that symptoms may vary and that there is rarely a single cause in these problems.
Some of the mechanical problems identified include congenital abnormalities in the jaw, problems with the displacement of the disk, inflammation or arthritis and traumatic injury to the jaw. Other problems can include the growth of tumors, infections or laxness and tightness in the jaw.
The most common problem though? Myofacial pain disorder which is a neuromuscular problem characterized by a dull aching pain around the ear. This can be caused by habits like clenching of the mouth, teeth grinding, biting lips or chewing gum (which can lead to overuse injuries). Famous all your can world champion Kobayashi suffered from a jaw injury.
This isn’t just limited to psychical factors though. Psychological factors such as depressision, anxiety or stress can add to the problems.
Who is afflicted by TMD problems?
Everyone can be affected. Having said that, women represent up to 90% of cases of people who seek treatment. With the advances in technology, it’s recommended that people visit specialists that have access to machines like MRI machines and CT scanning machines with cone-beam imaging. More complicated problems can be dealt with by visiting multidisciplinary clinics that are found in many leading hospitals and dental schools.
How do I fix it my TMD problems?
In nine out of ten cases, you simply leave it alone!
Some other things you want to think about include:
- Resting your jaw – eating soft foods coupled with antiflammatory medicine
- Avoid putting your jaw in stenuous positions like yawning
- Don’t sleep or lean on your jaw – avoid excessive pressure
- Avoid playing instruments that require you to blow (ie. Trombone, tuba, flute, clarinet, etc)
- Consider purchasing a mouth guard to help prevent the grinding of teeth
- Reduce your stress! Do sports and relax yourself. Identify stressful scenarios at work and do your best to remove yourself from them.
Photo credit: Lel4nd