What is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

Many people experience jaw pain and movement problems at some point in their lives. The jaw joint, otherwise known as the Temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the bones in your skull. It is the joint that helps you move your jaw up or down, side to side so that you can chew, yawn or even talk.

If you experience chronic pain in your jaw, popping or clicking noises when you open your mouth, or difficulties chewing, then you may have Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD). Though it is hard to determine what causes this joint pain disorder, your pain may occur due to various factors such as arthritis, jaw injury, or genetics.

Some people who have this jaw disorder often tend to grind or clench their teeth (bruxism), although not all of them develop temporomandibular joint disorders. This post will discuss everything you need to know about temporomandibular joint pain, from symptoms, causes and treatment options available. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

What is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)?

TMD is an acronym for temporomandibular joint disorders. It is a term given to different problems related to jaw pain and movement around the joints of your jawbone. The name also refers to any dysfunction in your temporomandibular joints. Many people use the terms TMD, TMJ or TM when referring to this dental disorder.

The TMJ disorder is normally characterized by facial pain involving muscle innervation’s of the head and neck, joint and masticatory muscles. TMD affects 15% of adult Americans, with people between the age of 20 and 40 years being at an increased risk. These muscle and jaw joint problems are complex. So, identifying the right diagnosis and Temporomandibular joint pain treatment is crucial before it worsens to become a major dental problem.

Root Cause of Temporomandibular Disorder

The exact causes of TMD aren’t fully understood, but it is frequently associated with stress. People who grind their teeth (bruxism), or who clench or tighten their jaws, are at increased risk of developing TMD. Dentists believe that symptoms stem from problems with the muscles of your jaws or with the jaw joint parts themselves.

Injury to the joint, your jaw, or your head or neck muscles- like from whiplash or heavy blow can cause TMD. Other causes may include arthritis in the temporomandibular joint, an improper bite, and acute trauma.

Signs & Symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorder

TMD normally causes discomfort and severe pain. This disorder can be temporary or last for many years. It is more common in women than men within the age bracket of between 20 and 40 years. Common temporomandibular disorder symptoms may include:

  • Tenderness or pain in your jaw joint area, face, shoulders, neck, or around your ear especially when you chew, talk or open your mouth wide.
  • Headaches
  • Earaches, especially ringing in your ears are a condition known as Tinnitus.
  • Pain while chewing or having difficulties while ingesting food.
  • Pain in your shoulders or neck
  • Tooth pain
  • Swelling on one side of your face.
  • Jaw pain
  • Locking of joints, making it hard for you to open your mouth.

Temporomandibular disorders can sometimes cause a grating sensation or a clicking sound when you chew or just open your mouth. In most cases, symptoms are mild and don’t last for a long time. They usually come and go without getting worse and tend to vanish without the dentist’s care.

Some patients who have TMD develop chronic symptoms. Difficulty in moving your jaw up and down may affect eating, talking, and swallowing. This may impact your overall sense of well-being. But how is TMD treated? Read on to find more information on the available TMJ disorder treatment options.

TMJ disorder treatment

Best Treatment for Temporomandibular Disorder

In some cases, temporomandibular disorder symptoms go away without any medication or treatment. But if your symptoms persist, your dentist may recommend various TMJ treatment options after:

  1. Observing the range of motion especially when you close or open your mouth.
  2. Pressing on your jaw and face to discover areas of discomfort.
  3. Feeling the areas around your jaw joints as you open or close your mouth.

In addition, your dentist may take X-rays to see the jaw joints and assess the nature of the damage. These radiographs (X-rays) may include:

  • MRI scans: In some cases, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (otherwise known as MRI) may be used to view the soft tissues around the jaw joints. Such scans will show possible jaw locking, the position of your disk, and whether there is any inflammation.
  • Panoramic X-rays: This kind of dental radiograph shows a broad view of your jawbone, TMJs, and teeth.
  • CBCT scans: Cone Beam Computed Tomography captures lots of images of your sinuses, facial bones, jaws and teeth. Such scans give your dentist a broad view of your facial anatomy.

Temporomandibular disorder treatment options available range from injections, open surgery, self-care practices to conservative treatments. Most dentists recommend patients start with nonsurgical, conservative therapies before they resort to surgical ones.

Some of the nonsurgical TMD treatment options may include:

  • Take anti-inflammatories or pain killers: Your dentist may recommend strong painkillers like ibuprofen to help relieve the temporomandibular joint pain.
  • Use corrective dental procedures: Such treatments may include using dental crowns or replacing missing teeth, braces, or bridges to bring your bite into proper alignment and balance.
  • Eat soft foods: To prevent your jaw from overworking, eat soft foods like eggs, cheese, mashed potatoes, and yogurt.
  • Use a dental splint at night: Dental splints and night guards are appliances that fit over your lower or upper teeth. They can help to keep your teeth properly aligned and prevent tooth grinding at night.
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements.

When to Visit Your Dentist for TMD?

If left untreated, the temporomandibular joint disorder can become a serious dental issue.  However, if you know what symptoms to look out for, you can take preventative measures to avoid the problem in the first place. An experienced family dentist in Murfreesboro, like Dr. William Fitzgerald, can offer the best treatment and advice on the disorder. Contact us immediately to improve your life and smile today.

Book an appointment online with William Fitzgerald DDS or call us at 615-896-7582 for TMJ disorder treatment today.

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