What does eating, speaking, singing, kissing and yawning all have in common? They all require a healthy jaw! If you have ever experienced jaw problems, you know how debilitating all of the above can be.
That beloved apple you like to eat now needs to be cut up in smaller pieces. Those sweet garden carrots now need to be cooked slightly as chewing anything hard can send a searing pain along the side of your face. Do you like to chew gum or enjoy a ribeye steak now and then? Forget it. And once the jaw is painful, it can take hours or even days for the pain to settle. Sometimes, the jaw can click and grind and sometimes even lock unpredictably resulting in an inability to close or open your mouth. And any attempts to do so re-creates a pain so intense that it brings tears to your eyes. Jaw pain can also be accompanied by headaches, neck/facial pain, tooth pain, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), nausea and dizziness. One can limp for a few days with a sore knee but how long can one sustain eating only soft foods with a painful jaw?
How common is this condition? Up to 12% of the general population experiences temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) symptoms at least once in their lifetime (1). The prevalence of TMD increases if you have a history of neck or jaw injuries (such as impact injuries, or motor vehicle accidents), or if you tend to clench or grind your teeth (2). However, do not worry, as TMD can be managed very successfully with the help of your dentist and physical therapist.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a joint that connects the lower jaw bone to the temporal bone of the skull. Despite its small size it is one of the most intricate and most used joints of the human body. TMD is a disorder of the TMJ and its surrounding structures (muscles, ligaments, bone).
TMD can be diagnosed by your dentist or physical therapist by obtaining a heath history and performing a physical exam. Treatment can differ from person to person and is ideally tailored based on individual presentation and needs. Conservative treatment, consisting of physical therapy and splinting, is the first option for 85-90% of all TMD patients (3), and oftentimes is the only intervention required to manage TMD. Research studies have shown that physical therapy interventions (including manual therapy, dry needling/IMS, and exercise therapy) contribute to significant pain reduction and increase in function in TMD patients (3). It is important to note, that the earlier a treatment is initiated, the better the outcomes, both in symptom intensity and duration. So, let’s stop taking pain killers and relying on splint therapy as a sole treatment and let’s get you moving (or chewing in this situation 😊).
I am Georgi Trifonov and treating TMD is one of my passions! A dentist referral is not necessary. However, I can work closely in collaboration with your dentist or orthodontist when necessary.
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1. “Prevalence of TMJD and Its Signs and Symptoms.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/facial-pain/prevalence. Obtained on November 29, 2020
2. Häggman-Henrikson, B., Rezvani, M., & List, T. (2013). Prevalence of whiplash trauma in TMD patients: A systematic review. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, 41(1), 59-68. doi:10.1111/joor.12123
3. Paço, M., Peleteiro, B., Duarte, J., & Pinho, T. (2016). The Effectiveness of Physiotherapy in the Management of Temporomandibular Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of Oral & Facial Pain and Headache, 30(3), 210-220. doi:10.11607/ofph.1661