TMD is another name for temperomandibular joint disorder. This joint (also called TMJ) is located on either side of the face connecting your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull. This joint along with the surrounding muscles allows you to open and close your mouth as well as moving side to side. It is believed that bewtween 5-10% of the population suffers some sort of TMJ dysfunction.
What Is TMD?
TMD occurs when the temperomandibular joint is damaged in some way causing a change in the movement of the lower jaw. These changes can be quite painful due to muscle spasms in the area. The cause of TMD is unknown at this time. But a variety of factors can lead to its development. These include trauma, improper bite relationship between teeth, and stress. TMD appears to be more common in women than men.
Common TMD Symptoms
-Pain emanating from jaws in the morning or late afternoon.
-Pain upon chewing, biting, or yawning.
-Clicking, popping, or grating noises from joint area when opening and closing your mouth.
-Difficulty opening and closing your mouth.
-Presence of arthritis in the joints.
-Sensitive teeth not associated with any dental problems.
-Stiffness or locking of your jaw upon use.
-Neck pain or headaches.
-An earache not associated with an ear infection.
Treatment for temperomandibular joint disorder can be very difficult. Your dentist will first diagnose the issue by performing a thorough examination. This examination will include a panoramic x-ray along with a manual palpation of the joints. A panoramic X-ray will allow your dentist to see the entire jaw, TMJ, and teeth to make sure other problems are not causing the symptoms. At times other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computer tomography (CT), may be needed. The MRI views the soft tissue, such as the TMJ disc, to see if it is in the proper position as the jaw moves. A CT scan helps view the bony detail of the joint. During the manual examination your dentist will be looking for any tenderness, clicking or popping sounds, or difficulty moving the jaw. Some lifestyle changes can help alleviate the symptoms of TMD. These can include:
-Avoiding biting your nails or chewing gum.
-Using over the counter pain relievers (like motrin or alleve) to manage pain.
-Use of heat packs over the affected area to manage pain.
-Choosing to eat softer foods.
-Practice good posture.
-Utilizing relaxation techniques to relieve stress.
If the case is more severe, more treatment will be needed. This can include physical therapy, use of a dental appliance, corrective dental work, or stronger prescription medications.
Alternative TMD Treatments
-Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This uses low-level electrical currents to provide pain relief by relaxing the jaw joint and facial muscles.
-Ultrasound. Ultrasound treatment is deep heat that is applied to the TMJ to relieve soreness or improve mobility.
-Trigger-point injections. Using injections of pain medication or anesthesia directly into tender facial muscles called “trigger points” to relieve pain.
-Radio wave therapy. This creates a low level electrical stimulation to the joint, which increases blood flow. The patient feels relief of pain in the joint.
TMD can be a debilitating condition that is not easily treated. It is important to see your dentist as soon as you have any changes in this area as the symptoms can be managed easier early on.