Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD/TMJ)

The temporomandibular joint is the only joint in the human face. It connects the skull at the temporal bone, to the mandible – hence the name, temporomandibular. Disorders of the jaw muscles, nerves, and bone are known collectively as temporomandibular disorders or TMD.

The TMJ moves the mandible up, down, and side to side. It helps us talk, chew, and yawn. However, diseases of the TMJ are fairly common – a study showed that four in ten people suffered from joint pain in one form or the other.

TMD can be multifaceted. But don’t worry, at Pearl Dental we conduct thorough examinations to help determine the cause and come up with a simple, yet effective treatment plan!

What Causes TMD?

It’s difficult to rule out a single cause for TMD; the disorder can be brought on by several factors, for example:

  • Trauma to the head, jaw, or neck
  • Arthritis
  • Bruxism
  • Soft tissue injury
  • Nerve damage
  • Muscle strains

The rest of the causes seem fairly familiar, but what is bruxism? Bruxism is defined as involuntary clenching of the teeth, that is, grinding. Someone who regularly grinds their teeth isn’t necessarily aware of the fact that they do it. However, on clinical examination, the biting surface of their teeth is relatively flat.

When Should You Go See A Dentist?

A TMJ examination is a typical mainstay in routine dental examinations. Your dentist has probably caught on to an existing TMD. However, if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while – which you really should – you might want to consider going in for an examination if you have any of the following signs:

  • A throbbing headache; typically after waking up in the morning
  • Clicking noises when you open or close your mouth
  • Limited mobility in the jaw
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
  • Pain during chewing

What Are The Different Types Of TMD?

There are three main types of TMD:

  • Associated with myofascial pain – The most common form of TMD. The pain stems from the fascia, the connective tissue overlying the muscles of the jaw, as well as the muscles controlling the jaw movement itself.
  • Internal derangement – Problems with the internal anatomy of the joint itself; the disc and the bone.
  • Degenerative joint disease – TMD caused by arthritis; osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment Options For TMD

Treatment options for TMDs can range from fairly straightforward, and simplistic ones to invasive surgical procedures. 

Here are a list of treatment options for TMD:

  • Behavioral changes to stop clenching
  • Splint to keep from involuntary clenching
  • Pain relievers
  • Stress management
  • Hot compresses to ease swelling
  • Soft diet
  • Posture change

Can Stress Cause TMD?

Stress can, in fact, cause TMD! Some people tend to clench their teeth or bite their nails when they’re stressed. This inadvertently causes muscle strain and leads to TMD. The solution? Break the habit!

Here’s a fun little tid-bit: Stress has been linked to well over a hundred medical and dental ailments.

Symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJ or TMD can range from mild pain to throbbing headaches that can keep you up at night. TMD can be difficult to diagnose, but simple enough to treat.

While there are invasive treatments, they’re reserved for severely traumatic cases. Most TMD can be resolved with physical therapy, simple appliances, and a few therapeutics.

For a simple yet effective treatment plan, contact us at Pearl Dental Clinic!

Questions about TMD/TMJ?

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