TMD stands for temporomandibular disorders. These are disorders that come about due to problems that revolve around the jaw, jaw joints, and face muscles that control chewing and jaw movement. Usually, a person experiencing TMD exhibits symptoms, including:
- Popping/clicking sounds in the jaws
- Locked jaw muscles
- Tenderness, facial pain, and swelling
- Problems opening the mouth
- Trouble biting and chewing
The difference between TMD and TMJ
These two terms are always used synonymously. However, there is a difference between the phrases. TMJ is an acronym that stands for the temporomandibular joint-a small joint connecting the skull to the jaw. Sometimes, this jaw joint may become damaged, leading to chewing issues, pain when you open and close your mouth, and speaking. You may also experience discomfort and pain in the face, jaw, and surrounding areas.
As already mentioned, TMD stands for TMJ disorders, which covers a range of symptoms and issues associated with the TMJ. Therefore, the former refers to the joint, while the latter denotes issues relating to the joint.
Causes of TMD
Unfortunately, the causes of TMJ disorders are not clear. Dentists believe that symptoms come about due to injury to the TMJ, jaw, or muscles in the head and neck. Other causes of TMJ disorders include:
- Improper alignment of the teeth
- Jaw joint trauma
- Pressure on the temporomandibular joint from teeth grinding and clenching
- Gum disease and tooth decay
- Sinus problems
How to Know if You Have TMD
Understanding TMJ may be difficult for a layman, but the dentist can tell when you are suffering from TMJ disorders. One of the common symptoms that many come in with is ear pain, jaw pain, or pain radiating from different head and face points.
The pain is dull and steady or sharp and recurrent, experienced mostly to one side or when the jaws are in use during chewing or talking.
The dentist will examine your medical history before putting you through a physical exam so that they do not end up treating you for TMD, while the problem could be sinuses or other infections.
The physical exam entails checking the teeth and jaws, how they come together if there are locking and popping, and other symptoms such as pain and swelling.
The doctor will also ask a myriad of questions revolving around the pain you experience, whether you grind your teeth, habits such as chewing nails and gum, leaning on your chin, and if you are stressed.
With the answers, the dentist can tailor specific physical therapy for you to rectify the issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Treatment for TMJ/TMD
Interestingly, not everybody needs to seek treatment for TMD as it clears over time in some patients. However, you should work with the dentist if the pain is persistent, you cant open and close your mouth, or eating becomes difficult.
The dentist will often treat you with medication such as muscle relaxers and ibuprofen and offer a mouthguard to deal with bruxism.
Additionally, the doctor will advise you to eat mostly soft foods to give the jaw a break from heavy forces. You may need a physical therapist to help with gentle exercise that is good for the jaw. You may also undergo cognitive therapy to establish what triggers the pain, for instance, biting fingernails and grinding teeth.
If your case is extreme, you may need surgery. This surgery could be a minimally invasive procedure, such as moving joint fluid with needles, and in more severe cases, you may require open-joint surgery.
Even at home, you will be needed to do the same things the dentists prescribed. You will need to stretch your jaw and neck regularly and take medication when needed.