The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the bones of your skull and moves your jaw up and down. It is fairly common to have problems with this joint (known as temporomandibular disorder or TMD) and this can cause a number of different symptoms including:

  • Pain in the jaw, cheek, temple, neck and back
  • Headaches
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Clicking or popping
  • Problems when chewing
  • Earache

The possible causes of TMD include:

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
  • Wear and tear or injury to the jaw joint
  • Stress
  • A misaligned bite

To diagnose TMD, your dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth and carry out a medical evaluation. They may also take x-rays to check your jaw joint and see how your teeth bite together.

Treatment options

Splints – these are worn to move the lower jaw forward and usually stay in place for 24 hours a day. They can help relax the muscles, protect the teeth and adjust how the teeth fit together.

Night guards – these are made from a flexible material and are similar to sports mouthguards. They are specially made from impressions taken of your teeth, so they fit securely and comfortably.

In-ear device – this is an innovative and discreet device worn in the ear canal to help keep the jaw in an open position.

Psychological treatments – these can be used to treat underlying psychological problems, such as stress and anxiety, which may be a cause of teeth grinding. These include cognitive behavioural therapy and other stress management techniques such as yoga, massage and deep breathing.

Medication – anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling. Muscle relaxants can loosen tight muscles and anti-anxiety medicine can help relieve the stress that can lead to teeth grinding and clenching.

Surgery – this may be considered if other forms of treatment are unsuccessful.

Make sure you attend regular check-ups, so your dentist can swiftly pick up any signs of tooth wear and check the alignment of your jaws.

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