TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, or the jaw joint. TMD stands for temporomandibular joint disorder, and is used to describe any condition affecting the jaw joint. Just to make things confusing, these two terms are often used interchangeably!
Your TMJ is one of the most complex joints in the body and is made up of a system of nerves and ligaments that connect your jawbone (mandible) to your skull (temporal bone). This joint can rotate and move in all directions—forward, backward, and side to side—and allows you to speak, chew, swallow, and yawn. Any action you take with your mouth requires the help of your TMJ.
If you have any problems with the muscles, bones, or other tissues that make up and surround the jaw joint, you may have TMD.
Most of us tend to clench and grind our teeth sometimes–usually when we’re stressed out or anxious. But for some people, teeth grinding and clenching is a chronic problem that can be a symptom of, and also contribute to, TMD. TMD’s most obvious symptoms are in the joint itself, including chronic jaw pain, stiffness or inability to open the mouth, as well as popping or clicking sounds.
TMD can manifest in your jaw and radiate pain into your face, head, neck, and shoulders. If you suffer from chronic headaches and migraines, your jaw might be the problem. If you suffer from chronic neck and shoulder pain, believe it or not, it might be a symptom of TMD!
There are many potential causes of TMD, and your treatment will depend on the nature of the cause. Sometimes TMD can be brought on or exacerbated by stress and teeth grinding. Women in their childbearing years are much more likely to suffer from TMD than men. In most cases, TMD is caused by a combination of factors that may include injuries or trauma to the joint itself or diseases like arthritis. Head and neck tension can be both a contributing factor and a symptom of TMD.
Other causes of and contributing factors to TMD include tooth and bite misalignment, ill-fitting dentures, and habits like nail-biting or lip chewing.
Your individual treatment plan will depend on the severity of your case as well as the cause. First, you will sit down with your Vernon dentist for a comprehensive consultation to determine the nature of the problem. Then, together, we will come up with a treatment plan that works for you.
If your TMD is the result of misaligned teeth or problems with your bite, we can likely correct the problem with some adjustments involving orthodontics or restorative dentistry. When your teeth become better aligned, it can eliminate chronic pain and tension and relieve TMD symptoms causing you grief.
If your TMD is the result of teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism), we can fit you for a custom mouthguard or nightguard to wear during sleep. This simple device can prevent your teeth from becoming worn down, providing a soft cushion that allows your jaw to rest and heal overnight while you sleep. Whatever the cause of your TMJ, a nightguard can be a fantastic solution.
If your TMD is the result of an injury or malady in the joint itself, it may require surgery to correct the problem. Severe cases of TMD may also require jaw surgery to correct the damage, but the end results can be worthwhile. Imagine a life where you can eat, speak, and yawn comfortably, and wake up each morning pain-free and ready to take on the new day!
If you have any questions about TMJ/TMD, we would love to speak with you. Contact your Vernon dentists, Dr. Bicknell, Dr. Denk, or Dr. Montian, at Pleasant Valley Dental today!