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 jaw bone (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, it’s a chronic problem that can be a symptom of and 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, which brings us again to stress!
In most cases, TMD is caused by a combination of factors including injuries or trauma to the joint itself, and joint diseases like arthritis. Head and neck tension can be both a contributing factor and a symptom of TMD, similar to bruxism.
Other causes and contributing factors 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 doctor 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 are 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 being worn down and provide a soft cushion so your jaw can rest and heal overnight. 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 jaw surgery to correct the problem. Severe cases of TMD may also require jaw surgery to correct the damage, but rest assured the results will be worth it. Imagine a life where you can eat, speak, and yawn comfortably, and wake up each morning pain-free and ready to take on the day!
If you have any questions about oral surgery, we would love to speak with you. Contact your Vernon dentists, Dr. Bicknell, Dr. Denk, or Dr. Parkins at Pleasant Valley Dental today!