TMD, also known as TMJD or temporomandibular joint dysfunction, is a painful jaw condition that impacts the joints that connect your jaw to the skull.
What Are the Temporomandibular Joints?
The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are located on each side of your head and consist of two bones: the mandible bone and the temporal bone. These two bones meet in an area called the glenoid fossa. This is where the TMJ articular discs sit. The articular disc has cartilage on both sides and splits the jaw joint into two sections.
Who Gets TMD?
The American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP) estimates that approximately 20 million Americans suffer from some form of TMJ pain or disorder. Approximately 2 percent of all adults have chronic symptoms of TMJ disorders.
TMD can affect anyone at any age. However, it’s most common in young adults between 20 and 30 years old.
Is There a Singular Cause of TMD?
There is not just one cause of TMD. It can be caused by:
- Trauma or injury. A blow to the jaw or a fall can contribute to the development of TMD.
- Infection. An infection such as osteomyelitis, which occurs when there is an overgrowth of bone tissue, may lead to inflammation of the TMJ.
- Genetics. People with certain genetic factors may be more likely to develop TMD than others.
- Stress. Stressful events such as job loss, divorce, death of a loved one or moving into a new home can trigger TMD joint disorders.
- Bite malocclusion. When teeth do not align properly, they can cause stress on the TMJs and the nerves muscles and ligaments that surround the jaw joints, causing discomfort.
How Can I Tell If I Have TMD?
TMD can cause a variety of painful and sometimes alarming symptoms. If you experience any of these signs, you should make an appointment with Dr. Mingus to be evaluated for TMD:
- You feel jaw pain or facial pain when chewing food.
- Your jaw feels stiff after sleeping or waking up.
- You experience headaches, earaches, neck aches, back pains, toothaches or other jaw problems. Some individuals also report feeling pain in the facial muscles.
- You notice clicking sounds when opening and closing your mouth.
- You feel tightness in your jaw muscles or hear popping noises when you open and close your mouth.
- You experience swelling or tenderness around your ears, eyes, face or neck.
- You have difficulty swallowing, speaking or chewing.
How Is TMD Diagnosed?
First, Dr. Mingus will examine you for signs of TMD. During this examination, he will use instruments to check for tenderness in the muscles around the TMJs. He may also ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. If needed, X-rays may be taken to determine if there is damage to the jawbone.
What Treatments Are Available For TMD?
Most people who have TMD can treat their symptoms through conservative treatments. Conservative treatment includes:
Resting. Avoid activities that require you to clench or grind your teeth.
Ice packs. Apply ice packs to the affected areas several times per day.
Over-the-counter medications. Use nonprescription pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen. Talk to your doctor before using prescription drugs.
Physical therapy. Therapists can teach you exercises to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the TMJs.
Massage. Massages can relieve muscle tension and improve blood flow to the jaw.
Splints. Splints are custom devices made to hold the jaws apart while the patient sleeps.
Orthodontics. Braces can realign misaligned teeth and prevent future dental problems.
Surgery. Some people need surgery to correct bite problems or remove damaged tissue from the TMJ area.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of your condition. Bend Headache Center can help you plan your rehabilitation.
Can I Prevent TMD?
The American Dental Association recommends the following steps to reduce the risk of developing TMD:
Avoid clenching and grinding your teeth. The stress of these behaviors on your jaw joints can lead to injury.
Wear a night guard while you sleep. If you do clench your jaw, it could wear down your enamel and increase the chance of chipping or breaking your teeth.
Eat soft foods. Chewing tough foods can put pressure on your jaw joints. If you have TMD, avoid gummy candy, crunchy veggies and beef jerky until you receive treatment for your TMD.
Stop biting your nails. Nail biting puts too much pressure on your jaw joint.
Stop chewing gum. Chewing gum can put a lot of pressure on your jaw and cause joint pain.
Have your bite checked. A thorough exam by an oral surgeon can detect any problems with your bite that might be causing your TMD symptoms.
Get regular dental care. Cleanings and exams can keep your mouth healthy and decrease your chances of getting TMD.
If you think you might have TMD, call us right away. It’s important to get proper treatment as soon as possible to prevent further complications.