TMJ is the anatomical abbreviation for temporomandibular joint, and everybody has TMJ. TMD is the abbreviation for temporomandibular disorder, and not everybody a disorder of the TMJ. However, TMJ and TMD are often used interchangeably even by those in the dental and the medical fields.
The doctors and the oral healthcare professionals at Colony Dental, located near you in Sugar Land, want to educate their patients, current and new, on the symptoms and the treatments for this common, and painful, condition.
What is TMJ Disorder?
Although TMJ is referred to as one joint, there are two hinge points in front of each ear. TMJ is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the base of the skull. It allows for the movement to form words, to chew food and to open the mouth for breathing. TMJ is one of the most frequently used joints of the body.
TMJ can rotate, glide and hinge all at the same time within its socket.
TMD, the disorder, occurs when the series of tendons, muscles and the joint pads become inflamed causing chronic facial pain, headaches and earaches.
Like the medical professionals, this article will refer to TMD as the TMJ disorder.
What are the Symptoms?
TMJ disorders affect many people in different ways, and many go to a variety of doctors before realizing their pain is originating from the TMJ (the joint). Some of the symptoms can include:
- pain and tenderness around the jaw, neck, cheeks and ears
- headaches or migraines
- jaw stiffness
- jaw that pops, clicks, locks or grates
- painful chewing
- changes in facial expressions
- changes in the relationship between the upper and the lower jaws
How are TMJ Disorders Diagnosed?
Unlike other conditions, patients often get frustrated with visits to an ENT doctor for the earache, to the dentist for the tooth pain, and to the neurologist for the headache.
If any of the above symptoms are experienced, it is advisable to begin with your dentist for the initial diagnosis. Be sure to describe all of the symptoms and not just the ones you feel are pertinent to a dentist. A dentist trained in the conditions of TMJ disorders are the proper choice within the medical field to physically inspect the jawbone and to examine the bite as the jaws come together.
What are the Treatment Options?
Below is the list of common treatment options in the order one should approach a TMJ disorder. All treatments should be a work in progress between a dentist, a TMJ disorder specialist and an ENT doctor.
Give your jaw a break – Often in mild cases, TMJ disorders self-correct when one avoids the wide opening of the mouth, cutting food into smaller pieces and chewing gum.
Treat TMJ like any muscle injury – Like any pulled muscle, massage the jaw muscles, use hot compresses and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, like ibuprofen.
Try muscle relaxation exercises – These exercises will be recommended by either your dentist or the TMJ specialist.
Check your posture – When one is slouched, the lower jaw shifts forward and the skull moves back onto the spinal column.
Get a sleep study – TMJ disorder is often caused by teeth grinding at night. Teeth grinding is a sign that one is struggling to breathe as airway passages collapse during sleep. Follow any recommendations for sleep apnea treatments.
Become aware of stress levels.
Speak with your dentist about bite guards.
Surgery – This should be the option of last resort after the above, non-invasive options have been tried.
TMJ disorder is a complicated condition, and it may take one or more of the above treatment options to manage the symptoms or to completely heal the ailments.
If you believe you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article and would like a consultation regarding TMJ disorders, then please contact the oral healthcare professionals at Colony Dental, located in Sugar Land, where new patients are always welcome.
Colony Dental is trusted and highly recommended in managing the symptoms of TMJ disorders, as well as other treatments and procedures in general and restorative dentistry.