Friedrich of Wauwatosa knows all too well the pain associated with
temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD, TMJ). She suffered in agony for
decades, not knowing the root cause of her discomfort.
people associate TMJ issues with the clicking or popping noise in the
jawbone, limited ability to open the jaw, or extreme orofacial pain,
which can also include headaches and neck pain. While any one of these
symptoms could lead to a TMD diagnosis, this debilitating condition is
actually quite complex and can be long lasting if not properly
evaluated and treated by someone who knows what to look for.
"I was sent
to chiropractors and orthopedic doctors. You name it, I saw someone
like that," says Friedrich.
For more than 20
years she suffered unnecessarily because no one quite knew what was
causing her excruciating pain. It wasn’t until years later when her
dentist referred her to a specialist that she received the proper
treatment, which finally eased her pain.
tension in my muscles caused my jawbone to be pushed up into my ear so
I couldn’t hear very well," says Friedrich. Treatment for her
included relaxing those muscles, and she’s been pain-free ever
According to Dr.
Jay Mackman, who founded the TMJ and Orofacial Pain Treatment Centers
of Wisconsin in 1982, more than half of the TMD suffers are women
between the ages of 20 and 50, although senior citizens and children
are also commonly diagnosed with the disorder.
"A lot of
people suffer from TMD," says Mackman.
While the exact
cause of the disorder is unknown, there are an array of factors that
can lead to TMD, such as genetics, facial trauma, biting or chewing on
the lip, tongue thrusts, post-surgery complications or sports
injuries. According to Mackman, those who clench and grind their teeth
can aggravate or perpetuate the disorder and in many cases must then
be treated with an oral appliance (splint) or month guard for several
is the president and co-founder of The TMJ Association located in
Milwaukee. She talks with patients and doctors from all over the
country and has done extensive research on the topic, providing
information and support to those who suffer from the disorder. She
believes there’s a consensus now as to how patients and doctors
conservative treatments that do not invade the tissues of the face,
jaw or joint or involve surgery are recommended," says Crowley.
always the case years ago. Some patients would undergo dozens of
surgeries and procedures on their face or have their teeth realigned,
only to be worse off than before.
The best advice
from Mackman for those who are suffering from pain is to find a
dentist who specializes in the treatment of TMD so a proper diagnosis
can be made.