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Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

My mother has lately been diagnosed with TMD also known as jaw joint dysfunction or myofascial pain disorder. This is a group of conditions that result in joint pain which can stop the correct movement of the jaw. 1 in 6 people are affected by the condition, and 30% of adults will experience TMD at some point in their lives.

Diagram showing the jaw joint
Diagram showing the jaw joint

Grinding her teeth was the main cause of my mother’s TMD; this happens normally when you’re asleep meaning the jaw muscles are overworked so there is unnecessary pressure on the jaw joint. Nevertheless the disorder can be caused by stress, uneven bite, specific diseases or wear and tear of the jaw joint. TMD is not usually serious and the symptoms typically last a few months before improving. However, this can have a significant impact on someone’s quality of life and it may develop into a more severe dysfunction.

My mother had been experiencing more severe symptoms of the condition for around a year before being diagnosed. She was suffering from painful migraines and serious neckache. However other symptoms include clicking or popping as you chew food, muscle pain around the jaw, earache, backache and difficulty opening the mouth.

Milder versions of TMD can be treated by making simple lifestyle changes such as eating soft food, holding a warm/cold flannel on the jaw several times a day, doing jaw-stretching exercises or massaging the jaw muscles. However my mother had previously tried such techniques and had no success. Hence, she has now been prescribed with a mouth guard. This fits over your teeth to stop grinding, especially at night. So far she has found her jaw to be less painful as clenching has been reduced.

My mother's mouth guard
My mother’s mouth guard

For very severe cases, surgery may be necessary to resolve TMD. One treatment is called arthrocentesis which involves inserting needles into the affected joint. The needle injects a sterile solution to wash out the joint- removing any extra scar tissue while increasing mobility. In rarer cases, open joint surgery is required to fix an abnormality within the joint. Very few people are recommended to have complete joint replacement as it can have significant side effects.

If you think you are suffering from TMD try making some simple life changes as suggested. If your symptoms do not improve consult your doctor or dentist.