Chronic facial, neck pain and severe recurring headaches may seem like generic ailments. However, in some cases can be attributed to Temporomandibular Disorder, also known as TMD.

The joints that connect your lower jawbone to your skull are called temporomandibular joints or TMJs for short. You use these joints every day of your life as you speak, chew, swallow and yawn. Pain in and around these joints can cause discomfort and even restrict movement.

Symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain in the 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 jaw area
  • A change in the alignment of top and bottom teeth
  • Locked jaw or limited opening of the mouth

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, notify your dentist at your next appointment. Your dentist will determine if you have TMD and create a customized treatment plan to help relieve your symptoms.

Not all jaw pain is associated with TMD.

If you suspect you may have TMD, it is important to visit your dentist for an exam. There are many preventive measures to help you maintain a healthy bite such as:

  • Relax your face — “Lips together, teeth apart”
  • Avoid grinding your teeth
  • Avoid all gum chewing/li>
  • Avoid cradling the phone receiver between your head and shoulder — instead, 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 get TMD without ever having braces. Symptoms usually come and go regardless of whether braces are worn. If your TMD is related to an imbalance in your bite, orthodontics can be an important part of managing TMD symptoms. Your dentist can refer you to an orthodontist to manage your TMD symptoms.