TMD, which is an abbreviation for Temporomandibular Disorder presents with a variety of symptoms. These include pain near your ear, your jaw or in the muscles on the sides of your face. Restricted jaw mobility and clicking/popping sounds in your jaw can be symptoms as well. TMD should not be confused with TMJ, which is an abbreviation for the Temporomandibular Joint itself. Everyone has a TMJ (two in fact). Not everyone has TMD!
TMD is characterized by disorders (and the subsequent pain and dysfunction) of the TMJ and surrounding muscles. Diagnosing these symptoms is not always easy, but many TMD cases can be resolved with the help of conservative home remedies. IT’s important to e explore these remedies before opting for more invasive and irreversible therapies (e.g. bridgework or surgery).
Your TMJs connect the lower jaw (the mandible) to the temporal bones on either side of your skull. These joints are incredibly complex, as they allow for motion in three directions. The mandible and temporal bone are connected in a ball and socket formation. In between lies a cushioning disk. Large muscles along the cheeks and temples move the mandible. Any of these parts (disk, muscles or the actual joint) can be the source of TMD. If you’re experiencing difficulty opening or closing your jaw, or are in pain, Dr. Leach and his team can examine your jaw and determine the best course of action.
Just like any other joint in your body, the TMJ can be affected by inflammation, sore muscles, strained tendons or disk issues. TMD also has a genetic component (women appear to be more prone than men). Age and stress can be factors as well. In some cases a more systemic issue (e.g fibromyalgia) may be a root cause.
Clicking, popping or grating sounds coming from the TMJ can be a sign of TMD. These typically occur when opening or closing the mouth and are caused by the disk inside the joint shifting or moving. IT can sometimes be loud enough for someone standing next to you to her it! Clicking on its own is fairly common (about one third of people experience jaw clicking). However, studies have shown that clicking accompanied by pain or reduced jaw function (e.g the jaw getting “stuck open or closed) is a sign of TMD.
Your jaw is operated by two large pair of muscles in your cheeks (masseter) and temples (temporalis). Soreness and stiffness in these muscles is often caused by grinding or clenching your jaw during sleep. This pain might be alleviated by the use of a nightguard, which is a custom-made mouthpiece that will help decrease the force generated when clenching or grinding. This, in turn, will allow your muscles to relax.
Pain in the joint itself can be classified as arthritis (“arth” for joint, “itis” for inflammation) of the TMJ. Arthritis anywhere in the body has no cure, but medication and other interventions may help. See below for more information on pain relief.
Once Dr. Leach’s team has performed an examination, the next step is working with the patient to determine the best approach for treatment. Treatment can vary from modifying diet (softer foods) to stretching, icing, heat application or medication (e.g anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxers).
More severe cases of TMS may require more complex strategies for treatment. Some of these might include orthodontics, bridgework, cortisone injections or lavage (flushin) of the joint. TMD rarely requires major surgery. It’s important to discuss your treatment options with the experts at Steven Leach Dental and work thru the conservative, non-invasive treatments before moving on to something more complicated. In the majority of TMD cases, these conservative strategies prove effective. But above all else, the first step is an office visit and an examination by Dr. Leach’s team.
To learn more about available treatment options, view this chart on TMD Therapy.