According to WebMD, "Temporomandibular disorders occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw". There are many causes that can lead to TMD, such as injury to the jaw from a heavy blow or whiplash, grinding or clenching of teeth, dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ, and stress.
Symptoms of TMD can include, but are not limited to:
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
- Limited ability to open the mouth very wide
- Jaws that get stuck or lock in the open or closed mouth position
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth which may or may not be accompanied by pain
- A tired feeling in the face
- Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite - as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
- Swelling on the side of the face
It certain cases it is necessary to treat the TMD with a lab fabricated night guard or splint. These appliances fit over the upper or lower teeth, preventing them from coming together as to prevent the clenching and/or grinding. They also correct the bite by positioning the teeth in their most correct and least traumatic position. More severe cases, may need a consult by an oral surgeon or be referred for physical therapy.