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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Do you suffer from chronic discomfort in your jaw, face, neck or shoulders? One reason for this pain could be temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). The good news is that for most patients, the pain is not an indication of any serious problems and in most cases, the discomfort is short-lived. With some simple home remedies, the symptoms improve and eventually go away. However, in a small number of cases, the pain can develop into significant, long-term symptoms. In today’s blog, Calgary dentist, Dr. Michael Popp will discuss the signs, causes and treatment of TMD.

What is TMD?

The temporomandibular joint (TMD) connects your jaw to your skull and is responsible for jaw movement, allowing you to move your mouth up and down and side to side so that you can perform crucial activities such as chewing, swallowing and talking. When this joint or the surrounding muscles are damaged, it can lead to the development of temporomandibular joint disorder.

What are the causes of TMD?

The exact cause of TMD in a person is difficult to determine. According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, women are more likely to suffer from TMD than men and scientists are currently exploring a possible link between female hormones and temporomandibular joint disorder. Some of the other causes include:

  • Arthritis in the joint
  • Increased pressure on the TMJ due to the patient grinding and clenching their teeth
  • Stress-induced tightening of facial muscles and clenched teeth
  • Jaw trauma
  • Misalignment of jaw or teeth
  • Poor posture

Though any single cause can trigger the onset of TMD, in most cases it is caused by a combination of factors like injuries and jaw disease such as arthritis. Other causes of temporomandibular joint disorder include gum chewing, pencil and fingernail biting as well as poorly-fitted dentures.

What are the symptoms of TMD?

Temporomandibular disorder can lead to acute pain. You may experience this discomfort over a period of many years or it may only be temporary. Women are more likely to suffer from TMD than men, as are patients between the ages of 20-40. Some of the common symptoms are listed below:

  • A stuck, locked or dislocated jaw
  • Inability to open your mouth wide
  • Soreness and discomfort in your jaw, facial area, neck and ears when you chew, swallow or speak.
  • Clicking noises in the jaw joint whenever there is movement of your mouth. This may or may not be accompanied by pain.
  • Facial swelling
  • Toothaches, headaches, vertigo or ringing in the ears are also common symptoms of TMD.

If you are experiencing any or a combination of these symptoms, Calgary dentist, Dr. Popp will be better able to diagnose TMD through a physical exam and consideration of your medical history. Though there are no specific tests to identify temporomandibular joint disorder, an MRI could be done to detect jaw damage and rule out other medical problems.

How do you treat TMD?

The good news for most patients suffering from the uncomfortable symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder is that it responds extremely well to home remedies. Some of these include:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Cold pack placed on affected area
  • Over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen
  • Eating only soft foods
  • Massaging or gently stretching the neck and jaw muscles

In cases where home remedies are ineffective, medical treatment may be required. These options include:

  • A Dental Splint
    Resembling a mouth guard, this treatment maintains proper tooth alignment and prevents patients from grinding their teeth.
  • Physical Therapy
    Doing certain exercises can help increase the flexibility and strength of your jaw muscles, as well as allowing for a wider range of motion.
  • Dental Surgery
    Surgery on the jaw is only recommended in the most severe of cases.

Dr. Popp and his team strongly believe in a proactive approach when it comes to patient occlusion as it greatly reduces the severity of the symptoms and improves the patient’s condition. For more information on TMD, or to book an appointment today, contact the Marlborough Dental Centre at 403-248-2066 or visit


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