Head Aches,Jaw Pain?- You may Have TMD

TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) is a condition in which your bite is misaligned, causing many serious and often painful health problems. Often times, you will see TMD referred to as TMJ, which actually stands for Temporomandibular Joint. What can be confusing is that these acronyms are used interchangeably even though TMJ refers to the joint itself while TMD refers to the painful condition of a combination of symptoms that are related to problems with your jaw joint.

Why Does my Head Hurt?

One of the most painful and debilitating symptoms of TMD is a headache that many compare to a migraine. Many physicians, even neurologists, have not received the dental training required to diagnose TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) problems and how they relate to your migraines. Neuromuscular dentistry is the branch of dentistry that helps people correct the jaw problems that have caused them pain for years, possibly even decades.

TMD causes such painful headaches and other symtpoms because the trigeminal nerve is one of the most powerful and complex nerves in the human body. This nerve is completely responsible for the temporomandibular joint and tooth functions and accounts for over 40% of the brain's processing. The trigeminal nerve has three branches, all affecting various parts of the face, head, shoulders and arms. The pain and muscle tightness associated with TMD can even affect your hands and fingers.

Other TMD Symptoms

The pain associated with TMD varies and may be sharp and searing or dull and constant. Pain is typically over the joint immediately in front of the ear but can radiate elsewhere and cause spasms in the muscles attached to the bones of the skull, face and jaws. Some of the most notable symptoms of TMD are:

• Limited jaw movement
• Locking, clicking, and popping of the jaw
• Tingling or numbness in the fingers
• Difficulty swallowing
• Insomnia
• Headaches
• Stiff or tight jaw muscles
• Ear problems, including ringing and pressure
• Neck, shoulder, and back pain

TMD patients often go to the general doctors for severe headache and are given medications to treat the pain of the headache; however, there is often no treatment provided for what is actually causing the headaches. Neuromuscular dentistry is the specialized area of dentistry that treats the cause, not just the symptoms, of the painful headaches associated with a misaligned jaw.

Treatment Options

Once diagnosed, your cosmetic dentist will decide which treatment plan is best for you, but the following are some treatments that are often recommended:

• Resting the jaw
• Heat/ice therapy
• Physical therapy
• Medications
• Stress management
• Mouth appliances
• Correction of abnormal bites
• Surgery (if nothing else works, surgery may be a last resort)

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