Ask the dentist: Getting to the bottom of jaw-dropping TMD condition

A dentist can help treat the debilitating issues associated with painful jaw condition TMD, says Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast

If our teeth are crooked or our jaws sit in a poor position then it can trigger inflammation in our jaw joints
Lucy Stock

WHAT the heck does blurry vision, droopy eyelids and eye floaters have to do with teeth? Well, these jaw-dropping symptoms can be connected to the mouth and it's all down to the wiring coming from our brain.

There are 12 main nerves originating in the brain. Number five is also called the trigeminal nerve and it is the biggest and most complex one. It controls the muscles in our face, jaws and neck.

If our teeth are crooked or our jaws sit in a poor position then it can trigger inflammation in our jaw joints which in turn can sensitise the trigeminal nerve leading to a whole host of annoying symptoms bundled together and known as temporomandibular dysfunction, TMD.

Part of TMD symptoms can be experienced around the eye area because the trigeminal nerve innervates part of the eye.

So, as well as blurry vision someone with TMD may also suffer from eye strain, moving spots in their vision, a pressure feeling, eye twitching, optical migraines, light sensitivity, and even watery eyes.

These symptoms should be differentiated from flashing lights in the eye that may be due to a detached retina which requires immediate medical attention.

TMD can be especially debilitating for people as it affects every aspect of life. Eating becomes laborious due to the joint discomfort and chronic head pain often leads to depression.

Overall, the many and varied symptoms permeate into daily life making holding down a regular 9 to 5 job very challenging; with some people withdrawing from social and work situations altogether.

To treat TMD first find a dentist that has an interest in this area of dentistry. Discovering if it is indeed the teeth that are the issue is important.

Often TMD is due to many different reasons in and outside of the mouth. It may be that someone is repeatedly grinding or clenching their teeth or the issue may be further afield like in the brain, spine or even a foot problem.

Due to the complexity of TMD, the treatment often involves multiple different forms of therapy. Dental treatments may compromise of bite splints and rebuilding teeth.

More medical therapies can include physiotherapy, osteopathy or injections. Often a combination of treatments reduces the symptoms of TMD partially and, hopefully, totally.

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