Tuesday, January 04, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Pain when opening and closing the mouth to chew or talk usually doesn't signal a serious problem, according to the January issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.
The source of the problem may be the temporomandibular (TM) joint, which connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the bone at the side of the head (temporal bone) and allows the jaw to move up and down and side to side. Muscles that control the jaw also may play a role.
There are a number of misconceptions about temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, says Kevin Reid, D.M.D., a Mayo Clinic dentist with special interest in TM disorders.
"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," says Dr. Reid.
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," says Dr. Reid. 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," says Dr. Reid. He advises seeking a second opinion if this type of treatment is recommended.
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