TMJ/TMD is medically known as Temporomandibular Disorder. This is a serious condition that affects the jaw as well as the facial muscles surrounding your mouth. Dentists estimate that more than 10 million people suffer from this disorder, and many more remain undiagnosed. This disorder is usually caused by a problem with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. The TMJ is the hinge joint that connects your jaw to your skull. TMD is caused when the TMJ suffers from a trauma or injury of some sort that affects its ability to move correctly. For more information on TMD and its causes, diagnosis, and treatments, read our handy guide below.
Causes of TMD
It isn’t known exactly what the cause of TMD may be, and in some cases it may result from a combination of problems. Stress, teeth grinding, and other dental issues such as crooked teeth may be underlying issues behind TMD. Other causes include arthritis in the jaw or physical injury that has resulted in a dislocation of the ball-socket area of the jaw.
Causes of TMD
There are a number of symptoms associated with TMD, including:
- Pain and tenderness in the jaw
- Pain and tenderness in the facial areas that may extend into the ears and shoulders
- A clicking noise in the jaw when chewing or speaking
- An inability to fully open your mouth
- Swelling in the face or jaw
- Aching facial pain
- A jaw “locking” into place when you open or close your mouth
How is TMD diagnosed?
In order to determine if you have TMD, your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your jaw, and will ask you a series of questions, such as:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Has this ever happened before?
- Have your stress or anxiety levels increased recently?
- Are you experiencing frequent toothaches, headaches, or neck aches?
- Is your pain constant or does it come and go?
- Is it difficult to open or close your mouth normally?
- Does your jaw click or pop when you move it, and is that clicking or popping painful?
Your dentist will check your jaw mobility, as well as check for any inflammation or tenderness. They will also examine the state of your teeth and bite, looking for any problems that may be causing the TMD. Your dentist may also need to perform x-rays of your mouth so they can get a clear picture of your jawbone. In some cases, a CT scan or MRI may be used if your dentist suspects problems with the bones and joint disk.
Based on the cause of your TMD, there are several treatments your doctor may choose from. For example, if bruxism is causing your TMD, your dentist may recommend that you wear a night guard. Other treatments for TMD may involve implants, braces, dental crowns or bridges in order to fix any bite problems that may be causing your TMD, or that may be making it worse.
There are a number of medications that may help to relieve any pain you are experiencing as a result of your TMD. These may include prescription strength pain relievers, tricyclic antidepressants, muscle relaxants and even sedatives. Your dentist may also recommend that you attend physical therapy appointments.
In some cases, stress may cause TMD. In these instances your dentist may recommend relaxation techniques, or they may recommend that you visit with a counselor in order to help you alleviate any emotional factors that may be contributing to your TMD. You may also be asked to avoid chewing gum, ice, or foods that are particularly difficult to chew such as taffy or caramel.
In some extreme cases, surgical methods may be required to relieve the symptoms of your TMD. These procedures include:
- Arthrocentesis – small needles are inserted into the TMJ so that it can be irrigated with fluid. This removes any debris and inflammatory byproducts.
- Injections – Corticosteroid or botulinum injections into the jaw muscles have been shown to be helpful in some people.
- Surgery – If none of the more conservative treatment measures have been successful, you may need surgery to repair or replace your TMJ. This procedure is highly controversial, and your dentist will only recommend this option as a last resort.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of TMD, or believe there may be a problem with your TMJ, our skilled professionals can help. Call Kenneth Hill, DDS today at (702) 897-7267 to schedule a consultation. Our experienced staff can identify and treat any underlying causes behind your TMD, and help you achieve a healthy, comfortable smile once more. Don’t try to manage the pain on your own; let our office help you be pain-free once again.