TMD/TMJ | Woodshore Family Dentistry
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) located on both sides of your head connect your jaws to the rest of your face and control all jaw-related movements. When they malfunction, you suffer from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD).
Chronic facial pain, such as headaches, ear pain, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction, are extremely common. In fact, it’s so common that 15% of the American population suffers from some of them. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) is an extremely common condition that over 10 million Americans suffer from. This is a chronic pain condition in which your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) — located on either side of your head — malfunction or succumb to a disorder. The temporomandibular joints connect your jaw to your face and essentially control all of your jaw-related movements such as eating, talking, speaking, etc. When these joints don’t work correctly, you suffer from TMD. Please continue reading for a detailed discussion of the symptoms of TMD and TMJ.
What are the Causes of Sudden TMJ Pain?
The temporomandibular joint is responsible for a wide range of motion. It acts as a hinge for your mouth and involves sliding action. As such, it can also get easily damaged. Parts of the TMJ that interact with the bones have cartilages and small discs that can absorb shock in order to facilitate smooth jaw movement. When this part of the joint gets damaged, you suffer from sudden TMJ pain.
The following are some of the primary causes of temporomandibular joint disorder:
- The small discs eroding or getting misaligned.
- Conditions like arthritis that can damage the cartilage.
- The TMJ getting injured or damaged.
As you can see, TMJ syndrome can occur for various different factors, which is why it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact root cause of the disorder. You can suffer from sudden TMJ pain due to jaw injuries, a sudden injury to the head or neck, whiplash action of the neck, bruxism, and many other reasons. There are many causes of TMD.
What are Signs and Symptoms of TMJ?
TMJ symptoms are extremely varied. If you suffer from some of these symptoms, you may have TMD.
- Tinnitus, which is a ringing sensation in the ears.
- Dizzy sensation and constant headaches.
- Chronic pain in the face.
- Pain in either the shoulders or the neck that gets worse over time.
- Swelling in the face.
- Exhaustion and fatigue around the mouth.
- Jaws feeling tender.
- Chronic pain around the jaws.
- Inability to chew, talk, or speak properly without pain.
- Inability to stretch your mouth open properly.
- Rigid jaws.
- A clicking or popping sound whenever you move your jaws.
- Sensitivity in your teeth, even if there’s no dental decay or issues.
- Misalignment of teeth.
TMJ can occur because of several reasons, including sinus issues, tooth decay, gingivitis, and many others. The dentist will discuss your medical history and try to detect signs of these conditions in order to rule them out. You should also give your dentist a complete list of all TMJ symptoms that you’re experiencing — don’t leave anything out. The dentist will also run some diagnostic tests to check if you have TMJ. They’ll listen to your jaw movements to detect any popping or clicking sounds. The dentist may also recommend further tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or even an MRI. This will help the dentist identify the cause of TMJ and proceed with the treatment accordingly.
Medicinal TMD Treatment
You can’t really cure TMJ and TMD with medicines. But if you’re suffering from severe pain, the dentist may prescribe some medicinal TMD treatments to relieve the pain. Prescribed medicines may include ibuprofen, tricyclic antidepressants to help with sleep, or muscle relaxants that can ease the severe contraction and spasm pains.
Therapeutic TMD Treatment
Depending on your specific condition and the dentist, you may be recommended one or several of these treatments.
- Mouth Guards: Mouth guards or splints are used if your TMD is caused by bruxism or teeth grinding. You have to wear this soft appliance in your mouth so that your upper and lower teeth don’t grind against each other. While this won’t treat bruxism, it will minimize the impact of continuous teeth grinding, which will also help treat TMJ.
- Physical Therapy: TMJ can also be caused by jaw injuries. In that case, the dentist will recommend a series of physical exercises and movements with which you can condition and strengthen your muscles. This will gradually ease TMJ pain.
- Counseling: In some cases, bruxism and night grinding (which can cause TMJ) are, in turn, caused by psychological issues like stress. In that case, the dentist may recommend counseling to deal with the underlying issues that are causing bruxism, which, in turn, is causing TMD.
Surgical TMD Treatment
There are also a number of surgical TMD treatments you can opt for. But the dentist will likely recommend these only after the aforementioned non-invasive treatments have failed. Some of the most popular surgical treatments for TMJ include TMJ Arthroscopy, Open-Joint surgery, Arthrocentesis, Corticosteroid Injections, and Modified Condylotomy.
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FAQs About TMD/TMJ
Do I Really Need a Night Guard for Bruxism?
A night guard doesn’t treat the root cause of bruxism. However, it prevents your teeth from constantly gnashing against each other, which can minimize the adverse effects of bruxism. If your TMD is caused by bruxism, this is likely to resolve the issue.
How do Dentists Find out if you Have TMJ?
In order to find out if you have TMJ, the dentist will have to conduct a series of diagnostic tests. The dentist will first discuss all of your symptoms and rule out other issues like sinus infection and gingivitis. The dentist will also run diagnostic and screening tests like CT scans, MRI scans, and X-rays, all of which will reveal if you’re suffering from TMJ. When the dentist questions you about your symptoms, it’s important to list out every single symptom you may be suffering from.