What does TMJ / TMD stand for and how does it affect me?
The term temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) refers to conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and facial muscles that control jaw movement. The TMJ is the joint that connects the mandible, or lower jaw, to the skull. They are located in front of each ear and are flexible joints that are responsible for jaw movements such as chewing, speaking and yawning. To learn more about TMJ/TMD including symptoms, causes and potential treatments, read on:
Symptoms of TMJ / TMD
The symptoms associated with TMD will vary for each individual and they may be temporary or long-lasting. Pain or tenderness felt in the jaw, face and around the ears are the primary symptoms of TMD. TMD sufferers often hear a popping or clicking sound when closing or opening their mouth. Frequent headaches are a further symptom of TMD, which can be moderate-to-severe and are often accompanied by neck and shoulder pain. TMD can also cause facial swelling, limited jaw movement, jaws that lock when open or closed and difficulty chewing.
Causes of TMJ / TMD
It is not entirely clear what causes TMJ disorders and many possible causes are attributed to the development of TMD. Frequent teeth grinding and clenching is one potential cause of TMD. Arthritis and dislocation of the TMJ are also potential causes, in addition to a misaligned bite and an injury to the TMJ and jaw.
Treatments of TMJ / TMD
TMD treatments range from conservative approaches to injections and surgical interventions, although most conservative treatments are effective. Only a dentist will be able to design a treatment plan for TMD after determining the cause of the disorder. Night guards and splints that fit over the teeth to prevent teeth grinding are a popular treatment for TMD. It may also be helpful to avoid extreme jaw movements and minimize chewing and yawning. Correcting a bite problem can also be effective, in addition to jaw exercises and bite therapy.