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Temporomandibular Disorder

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic facial and neck pain as well as severe, recurring headaches. In some cases, this pain is due to Temporomandibular Disorder, also known as TMD.

Your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, connect your lower jawbone to your skull. These joints get a lot of use throughout the day as you speak, chew, swallow, and yawn. Pain in and around these joints can be unpleasant and may even restrict movement. At Foley Orthodontics, we provide a orthodontic evaluation of the TMJ during the initial comprehensive orthodontic exam.

Symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain in the head/neck/jaw area
  • Pain, ringing, or stuffiness in the ears
  • Frequent headaches or neck aches
  • Clicking or popping sound when the jaw moves
  • Muscle spasms in the head/neck/jaw area
  • A change in the alignment of top and bottom teeth
  • Locked jaw or limited opening of the mouth

If you notice that you are experiencing any of these symptoms, let the doctor know at your next orthodontic appointment. Dr. Foley can help determine if you have TMD and take the appropriate action to help relieve your symptoms.

Not all jaw pain is associated with TMD

If you feel that you might have TMD, it is always important to mention it on the medical history form before orthodontic treatment or immediately report it to the orthodontist if it begins over the course of orthodontic treatment. However, not all jaw pain is associated with TMD.  If you begin to develop symptoms of TMD, there are several steps you can take that may improve your condition.

  • Relax your face — "Lips together, teeth apart"
  • Avoid grinding your teeth
  • Avoid all gum chewing
  • Don't cradle the phone receiver between your head and shoulder — either use a headset or hold the receiver to your ear
  • Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth
  • Do not sit with your chin rested on your hand
  • Practice good posture — keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared

Many people develop TMD without ever having braces. Similarly, studies have demonstrated that braces do not cure nor cause TMD (Mohlin et al., 2007; Williams et al., 2004). Symptoms usually wax and wane regardless of whether braces are worn. If you have previously experienced or are currently experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please mention it to our staff at the initial consultation or at your regular appointment.

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