A Pain in the Jaw

There are a number of misconceptions about temporomandibular joint pain, according to an article in the January issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.

There are a number of misconceptions about temporomandibular joint pain, according to an article in the January issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource.

The temporomandibular (TM) joint connects the mandible to the temporal bone and allows the jaw to move up and down and side to side. When pain is sensed in opening or closing the mouth, it is sometimes assumed by patients that the pain is linked to the joint when the muscles that control the jaw may be playing a role.

Kevin Reid, DMD, a Mayo Clinic dentist with special interest in TM disorders, said, in a statement, ““A lot of people assume that if you have any pain in your face or jaw it’s due to some sort of temporomandibular joint problem, when in fact it may be due to a muscle problem or a number of disorders affecting jaw movement.”

No single test can help in diagnosing TM disorders. Diagnosis is based on medical history, a clinical exam and imaging. The source of pain may include trauma to the jaw, arthritis, headaches, or sinus infections.

“In fact, it’s unlikely that a TM disorder is due to just one thing. It’s more likely due to a complex and diverse group of causes,” Reid said. No evidence shows that the way teeth come together causes the problem.

Simple, noninvasive treatments usually provide relief. Treatments may include applying moist heat or ice. Behavior modification may reduce factors that aggravate pain, such as clenching or teeth grinding. A splint or mouth guard might be helpful for a short time. Often, the pain associated with TM disorders goes away on its own.

“The bottom line is that even severe pain typically doesn’t warrant costly, invasive treatment to change your bite,” Reid said. He advises seeking a second opinion if this type of treatment is recommended.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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Do you agree that many misconceptions exist about TM disorders? Leave a comment.

Additional Resources:

TMJ Disease

The TMJ Association

TMJ Disoreders - Medline Plus

Video:

TMJ or Temporomandibular joint disorder; Dr. Shawn Phelan