Temporomandibular Joint Disorder: Coping With The Pain

Numerous Americans are plagued by temporomandibular joint disorder, which causes a myriad of unpleasant symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, jaw pain and more. In search of relief, sufferers turn to all sorts of so-called remedies. Unfortunately, many times, these tend to prove dangerous and/or ineffective.

Pain Medications

Because TMD (also known as TMJ disorder) results in chronic pain, many sufferers rely on prescription or over-the-counter pain medications for help. Unfortunately, this can lead to physical and psychological addictions. Additionally, because they take a toll on the kidneys, liver and other organs, pain medications often contribute to long-term health problems.

Non-medicinal Remedies

Because they fear the potential risks associated with pain medications, some TMD sufferers turn to non-medicinal remedies, such as acupuncture and meditation. Studies indicate that these treatments may help people better tolerate chronic pain. Unfortunately, because they fail to address the root cause of TMD pain, they cannot offer lasting, long-term relief.

Addressing the Cause

Temporomandibular joint disorder can occur for a number of reasons, including an accident that causes head trauma, teeth grinding and even as a result of arthritis. That said, the vast majority of the time, the condition is caused by a misaligned bite. Once a sufferer’s bite is corrected, he or she is apt to experience noticeable, sustained relief.

In severe cases, TMD may require surgery. Unfortunately, surgical procedures can be painful, invasive, and unreliable. Many times, patients experience no relief even after they’ve undergone surgery to relieve their TMD pain, which is why so many choose to live with their pain instead of going under the knife.

Bite Splints

Also known as bite splints, neuromuscular appliances are often used to alleviate TMD symptoms by realigning a patient’s bite. Non-invasive and relatively inexpensive, this treatment tends to prove effective for the majority of TMD patients, as long as their condition wasn’t caused by a traumatic accident.

After analyzing a patient’s occlusion (how his or her teeth come together) and how hard his or her jaw has to work to open, the TMJ dentist creates a custom appliance that holds the jaw in the correct position. Generally, patients experience noticeable relief the moment they receive their appliance. Initially, they may need to wear the appliance all the time; however, after a while, they can wean themselves off the device, wearing it only during the night while they sleep.

A Widespread Problem

Health experts estimate that nearly 10 million Americans suffer from TMD; however, because the condition causes a host of different symptoms, many people don’t know they have it. If you’ve noticed jaw popping, jaw pain, ringing in the ears or other unexplained symptoms, consider visiting your physician or a TMJ dentist to see if you have this common disorder.

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Lesley Inglin writes widely about issues surrounding dental health.  She feels that Dr. Chet Hawkins sets the gold standard for dentists in Texas.

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