The temporomandibular joint (or TMJ) connects the lower jawbone to the skull on either side of your face. The lower jaw and temporal bone adjust together as a ball and socket with a disk in between. Large pairs of muscles in the cheeks and temples move the lower jaw enabling us to talk, chew and yawn. If this system doesn’t work properly, it can lead to various TMJ disorders. Such conditions are sometimes referred to as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD), TMD or TMJ syndrome.
Here you can find some of the important information regarding TMJ disorders (TMD):
What Are TMJ Dysfunction or TMD?
Temporomandibular joint and muscle dysfunction or disorder, also referred to as TMD, are a set of conditions that induce pain in the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. According to a rough estimate by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), over 10 million Americans are affected by TMJ dysfunction. The condition appears to be more common in women than men, mostly between the ages group of 20 to 40 years.
What Causes TMD?
The exact reason behind a person’s TMJ dysfunction is often challenging to determine. Causes that enhance the risk of developing TMD include:
- Different types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Jaw injury
- Severe grinding or clenching of teeth
- Poorly aligned teeth
- Certain connective tissue diseases
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of TMD?
Some of the symptoms linked to TMJ dysfunction include, but not limited to:
- Radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck
- Stiffness of jaw muscle
- Severe headaches
- Restricted movement or locking of the jaw
- Difficulty in chewing
- Painful clicking, popping or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
How Is TMD Diagnosed?
There is no specific test to diagnose TMJ syndrome. Diagnosis of TMJ syndrome is done by:
- Taking the patient’s medical history and doing a physical exam to find the cause of the symptoms.
- Patient is sent to an oral and maxillofacial specialist, an ENT specialist, or a dentist specializing in jaw dysfunction to confirm the diagnosis.
- Sometimes a CT scan or MRI of the TMJ may be ordered to detect damage to the cartilage of the jaw joint and to rule out other medical problems.
- TMJ arthroscopy is sometimes used in the diagnosis of a TMJ dysfunction.
What Are the Treatments Available for TMD?
Most people have comparatively mild forms of TMD. Their symptoms improve remarkably, or go away, within weeks or months by following some these self-care practices:
- Eating soft foods
- Applying ice packs on affected areas
- Avoiding extreme jaw movements like chewing gum
- Learning techniques for relaxing and reducing stress
- Practicing gentle jaw stretching and relaxing exercises that may help increase jaw movement
For other severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend a variety of treatment options such as:
- Pain medications
- Stabilization splints or bite guard
- Irreversible Treatments like surgery and artificial implants
Normally, TMD treatments require certain lifestyle changes, combined with medications to ease any pain and discomfort. Severe treatments are rarely needed. Get in touch with your dentist to determine what TMD treatment is right for you!