While the terms TMJ and TMD are often thrown around interchangeably, they are not synonymous. The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are found on both sides of the head in front of the ears. They are hinges that connect the jaw to the skull. The TMJ works with other bones, ligaments, discs, and muscles to make the complex movements of eating and speaking possible.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) cover a wide range of conditions that affect the TMJs. You can experience TMD pain in the jaw joint and in the muscles that control the jaw's movement.
Causes of TMD
Medical experts have not yet nailed down a specific cause for TMD. It is also difficult to diagnose from person to person, especially if the joint itself doesn't have any problems. Problems with the joint or the muscles surrounding muscles can also cause symptoms. Other factors include trauma in the jaw, neck and neck muscles such as whiplash, arthritis, teeth grinding, stress, a misaligned bite or a dislocated jaw. Heavy lifting and other strenuous activities often cause you to grind and clench your teeth, thus making TMD worse.
The TMJs combine sliding movements with hinge action, making this a complicated structure that is more easily damaged. The sections of bone that interact with the TMJs are covered with cartilage and separated by small shock-absorbing discs. This structure keeps the jaw moving smoothly. The TMJs functionality is threatened if the discs erode or slip out of alignment. Damage to the cartilage and hard impacts that damage the joints will also impede the efficiency of the TMJ.
Symptoms of TMD
TMD has a variety of symptoms, including facial pain and swelling, headaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and aching in the face, neck or shoulder. Other symptoms include jaws getting stuck open or closed, difficulty opening your mouth wide, pain or tenderness in the jaw, and painless grinding, popping, or clicking noises. Also, watch out for chewing problems due to misaligned teeth and sensitive teeth where there are no dental problems.
Because TMJ has a variety of symptoms, many of which are shared with other conditions, you should come in for a consultation with Dr. Gregory J. Gorman, DMD, so we can give you a proper diagnosis. First, we will seek to rule out other causes such as gum disease, sinus problems, tooth decay, or arthritis.
Dr. Gregory J. Gorman, DMD will ask you questions about your medical and dental history and then conduct a physical examination. During the exam, we'll examine your joints for any tenderness or pain, listening for popping, clicking or grinding sounds, and test your bite to make sure your jaw doesn't get stuck. If we suspect you have TMD, we may need a CT scan, an MRI or x-rays to get more information about the condition of the joint.
Most of the time, at-home self-care practices can remedy the discomfort of TMJ. Dr. Gregory J. Gorman, DMD can teach you how to use them. If these practices don't take away symptoms, we'll have to use conservative treatments. If we determine you need an irreversible form of treatment, we'll need to get a second opinion first.
For more information, please contact our office at (970) 812-3959.