Do you Click When You Open?

By Ashley Turner / Pre Med Student and Member of The Future Dental Mentoring Committee (FDMC) of Buffalo

Jaw popping, clicking, and pain is common. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint of the jaw; the anatomy includes, bones and cartilage, with associated structures such as tissue and muscle. It is a load bearing joint and injury, or overexertion can occur. Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) range from issues with the bones of the jaw, articular discs, muscles and nerves of the face. TMD symptoms can vary from tenderness to significant pain in the jaw, locking, popping and other discomforts, making simple acts such as eating or speaking uncomfortable to very difficult.

Research of the temporomandibular joint and disorders associated with the TMJ has become a popular field of study. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the number of individuals affected by TMD is unknown, but estimated at approximately 10 million Americans. The definitive cause for disorders of the TMJ is debated by dental researchers. Studies indicate the symptoms can fluctuate over time and there is no clear understanding of the natural progression or even all the contributing variables. However, it is documented that women are disproportionally affected, with most women treated being between the ages of 20 to 45.

Currently is no cure for temporomandibular joint disorders, however there are several courses of treatment. Current treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, stretching/relaxing of the muscles through massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care to align the body preventing and or to treat jaw misalignment, splints, mouthguards and for major jaw issues oral surgery. Treatments for TMD can give significant relief of symptoms.

Frequent jaw pain and discomforts are a reality for many. Do not just endure. If you are experiencing any jaw discomforts or pain effecting your daily life, speak with your dentist to discuss possible causes and treatments to relieve your symptoms.