TMJ / TMD
What You Need to Know About TMJ / TMD
Temporomandibular joint disorder is often abbreviated and referred to as TMJ or TMD. In fact, you may find that many dental and healthcare professionals use the terms TMJ and TMD interchangeably. The joints involved in this disorder are located on each side of your head. The joints work with the muscles and ligaments to help you open and close your mouth for talking, chewing, or yawning. TMJ / TMD happens if these joints do not work as they should.
Despite the location of the joints involved, TMJ / TMD can affect face (and your head) in other locations. TMJ / TMD causes chronic facial pain. It is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. According to the American Dental Association, this condition is more common in women than in men.
With TMJ / TMD, the joints of your jaw do not work in the way that they are designed. Treatment does exist for TMJ / TMD. Generally, the goal of treatment is to control or stop the symptoms of the disorder. Treatment could include finding a way to minimize the spasms that occur in the muscles and the ligaments around the affected joints. Sometimes, dental professionals prescribe the use of specialized dental appliances to help reduce the likelihood of negative problems that result from the disorder. Relaxation techniques are often taught in order to help the patient learn how to lessen the tension in the jaw muscles. In extreme cases of TMJ / TMD, surgery may be recommended.
Symptoms of TMJ
TMJ / TMD is often symptomatic. Yet, one issue with relying only the symptoms is that there are other dental and craniofacial issues that have similar symptoms. It is very important that if you see any of the following symptoms that you see a dental professional. Your dentist will take a complete history of your dental and physical health. Then, you’ll most likely undergo x-rays so that the dentist can examine the jaw bones and teeth. The dentist will also perform an exam.
Symptoms of TMJ include:
- Severe headaches. Many patients with TMJ believe that they have a migraine because of the location and severity of the pain.
- Because of the close proximity of the jaws to the ears, when patients have TMJ, they often experience earaches. It could be dull pain or sharp pain.
- Clicking or popping when you open or close your mouth. Additionally, the jaw may also lock into place. Although no one knows what causes TMJ, many theorize that it is a form of arthritis in the jaw.
- Pain or tenderness in the jaws. Inflammation in muscles and ligaments can cause pain. Grinding of the teeth can also cause pain.
- Your upper and lower teeth do not fit together anymore. If your bite was normal and suddenly becomes abnormal, you may have TMJ.
If you have certain risk factors, it is more likely that you will develop TMJ / TMD. Risk factors include a diagnosis of certain types of arthritis, experienced an injury to your jaw, have a history of grinding or clenching your teeth, or have certain connective tissue disorders.
If TMJ / TMD is left untreated, complications may develop. Common complications related to this dental problem include poor oral health, long-term headaches, sleep loss because of grinding of the teeth, malnutrition, eating disorders, and hearing problems. If you have suspect that you may have TMJ / TMD, see a dentist right away.
Not All Jaw Pain Is Associated with TMD
Not all jaw pain is associated with TMD. While TMD occurs in around 10-15% of the population, other conditions have similar symptoms. These include:
Sinus infections. Sinus infections can be really mild and have practically no symptoms passed pressure in the sinuses or they can be severe. Severe sinus infections can do more than cause pressure in the face. It can cause ear pain, dizziness, and some people even experience jaw pain.
Problems with neck muscles. As you learned earlier, jaw muscles can cause ear pain. Neck muscles can cause jaw and ear pain. Our muscles in the craniofacial region are interconnected. So, you may not have TMD, but you could have a pulled or strained muscle in your neck and shoulder region that is causing you pain in your jaw and ears.
An abscess. If you have an abscessed tooth, it can eventually cause jaw and ear pain. Signs of an abscess, aside from pain, includes a swelling of the face, a buildup of pus under the gum line, a blister like sore on the gum, or even a fever. An abscess requires treatment with antibiotics or it can become life threatening.
Bruxism. Bruxism means that you spend a lot of time grinding or clenching your teeth. It’s likely that you don’t do it on purpose. It is something that you can do in your sleep. The result is often pain in the jaw.
Trigeminal Neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia is the inflammation of the trigeminal nerve. This particular nerve gives feelings to your mouth. It can be moderate in nature and only cause minor pain when eating or it can be so severe that the face begins to ache from a soft breeze.
Because TMD has symptoms that mimic other conditions and because it can also cause complications, you should contact Orthodontists Associates of Western New York for a free screening.
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