TMJ: You Know Longer Have to Grin and Bear It (Part 2)

What are MPD Symptoms?

Those who have myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome (MPD) complain of numerous problems, although pain is the most common complaint. Sufferers characterize this pain as a dull, ache at the joint. Sometimes they also complain of pain in, near, or around the ears, and sometimes a sufferer’s cheek muscles ache, although more often the jaw muscles are tender and sore. In some cases, sufferers may have no pain but may notice joint vibration or popping or clicking sounds when they move their jaw or open their mouths.

There are many other symptoms. For instance, sufferers may feel their bite is not quite right or they may experience headaches. Sufferers may also notice it is uncomfortable to open their mouths wide or find their jaw locks when opened. Sometimes chewing, yawning, or talking makes the condition worse, and some MPD sufferers notice scalp sensitivity or they may feel pain that radiates to the back of the head, neck, or down the shoulders. Additional symptoms range from snoring and sleep apnea to dizziness and vision problems.

How Is MPD Diagnosed?

With so many different symptoms, MPD is difficult to diagnose. Moreover, certain symptoms, such as headaches can be caused by numerous triggers. A headache can be caused by environmental elements, allergies, vascular problems, or stress and tension. Thus, a headache may have nothing to do with MPD. Facial pain may also be caused by a sinus infection, an abscessed tooth, or an ear infection and may have no correlation to the TMJ. So, as expected it is extremely difficult to diagnose the disease.

As there is no standard test to determine whether or not a person is suffering from MPD, sufferers often see numerous doctorsnose and throat specialists, dentists or orthodontists, primary care physicians, endocrinologists, and even chiropractorswith no improvement or no resolution. Testing can be done but rather than confirm whether or not a person has MPD, testing usually rules out causes, diseases, or disorders, so a person ends up knowing what they don’t have rather than what they do.

What Treatments are Available?

Fortunately, even if you suffer from MPD, almost 90 percent of sufferers never need medical attention and recover on their own. Here are a few suggestions to help you if you currently suspect you have MPD:

  • Do not chew gum.
  • Avoid chewing hard foods for two to three weeks.
  • Do not grind or clench your teeth at night, and, if you do, see a dentist and obtain a special mouthpiece known as mouthguard or nightguard.
  • Chew food on both sides of your mouth, not just one side.
  • If the pain is on one side avoid sleeping on the affected side and if the pain is on both sides, sleep on your back.
  • Apply heat for 20 minutes a least twice a day.
  • If you experience swelling, take aspirin or ibuprofen but don’t take it longer than a few days. If the pain worsens, call your doctor.

If after a few weeks the pain remains, call your doctor. Treatment for MPD is much simpler now than in the past. For instance, it often involves a diet of soft foods for a short time, as well as muscle relaxation exercises, heat or ice therapy, massage, and pain medication. Sometimes simple exercises may also help relieve symptoms. Additionally, if MPD is caught early and treated, many problems can be easily resolved, but the longer muscle spasms occur, the more likely the jaw will move, which can then produce arthritic problems and require more complex treatments.

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