According to statistics from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, over 10 million people nationwide are affected by TMD (temporomandibular disorders) wrongly called TMJ, with women being more affected than men. The symptoms can vary from mild discomfort to severe pain and involve not only the jaw joint but also the surrounding tissues, muscles and ligaments. As there are different causes for experiencing pain in the jaws, your dentist will help make a correct diagnosis and get to the source of the issue.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
One of the most common symptoms of the TMJ disorders is a clicking sound when opening or closing the mouth, usually accompanied by pain. This sound can sometimes be loud and is caused by shifting of the disc inside the joint. The disk is small and fibrous and acts as a cushion and shock absorber between the ball and the socket. The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible (or the lower jaw) to the temporal bone, which is at the side of the head. The flexibility of these 2 joints allows the jaw to move up and down and side to side, which plays an important role in chewing and speaking. The joint can be easily located by placing fingers just in front of the ears and then opening the mouth. Although the temporomandibular joint is a “ball and socket” joint, because of its complex movement and unique anatomy it is one of the most complicated joints in the body. TMJ disorders are a group of conditions of the jaw joint and chewing muscles with pain being the most common symptom.
Other symptoms may be present:
-locking of the jaw or very limited movement
-muscle pain in the cheeks, temples, or in front of the ear, especially while eating, speaking and yawning
-muscle stiffness in the jaw
-jaw becomes or feels stuck
-radiating pain in the jaw, face and the neck
-change in how the teeth fit together
-sharp pain from the joint
Causes of TMD
The exact causes of TMD are not clearly defined, and people may experience symptoms without obvious reasons. Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw without pain being present are common in most people and usually they are not an indicator for TMD. Contrary to the popular belief that bad bite or orthodontic braces can trigger TMDs, research shows that this is not the case. Some of the causes of TMD may include:
-dislocated or eroded disk
-injury related trauma to the jaw
– trauma to the jaw as a result of bruxism (clenching or grinding of teeth)
-rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis of the jaw joint, which can damage the cartilage
– teeth that are not lined up right, or misaligned bite
When to See Your Dentist
If you are experiencing chronic or long term TMJ symptoms, call your dental specialist at CV Dental Care for a professional evaluation. Often people may have other health conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia that may be affecting the temporomandibular joint. Your dentist will look at your detailed dental and medical history, examine the way your jaw moves, your teeth and bite for signs of grinding or clenching, and may take x-rays or a panoramic x-ray to get a clear picture of the temporomandibular joint.
In most cases, your dentist may recommend a conservative treatment that may include:
-temporary soft food diet
-stress reduction and relaxation therapies, massage
-muscle relaxant drugs
-steroid injections into the TMJs and tendons
-reshaping teeth to make them fit right
-hot or cold compresses on the jaw
Irreversible treatments for changing and correcting the bite may include orthodontics, crown and bridge work, implants to replace missing teeth and using an occlusal guard to stop teeth from clenching and grinding.
In serious cases with structural problems in the TMJ, your doctor may have to intervene surgically to correct or replace the joint.
TMJ disorders can have a debilitating effect on daily activities. If you’re experiencing any of the TMD symptoms accompanied by pain, give us a call. At CV Dental Care, our TMD specialists will work closely with you to prescribe the best possible treatment that best fits your lifestyle and beliefs.