Learn about TMJ / TMD treatment and symptoms before making an appointment.
Having issues with your jaw?
The best thing that you can do is get the right diagnosis, to ensure that your treatment offers you relief.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is a hinge joint, and it connects the mandible (your lower jaw) to the temporal bone of the skull. This bone is located right in front of your ear, on both sides of the head. Being a hinge joint, it is flexible and facilitates the movement of the jaw from side to side, as well as up and down. Whenever you are chewing food, speaking or yawning, it is this joint that is moving. The muscles which are attached to this joint, as well as those that surround it control the movement of the jaw and its positioning.
When the muscles or the nerves in this joint are injured in any way, the result could be TMJ syndrome, TMJ dysfunction or TMD. Not only can your internal structures cause this dysfunction, but also the alignment of your teeth as well as stress that you endure that causes grinding or clenching.
What is TMD?
TMD stands for temporomandibular disorders. You may experience these disorders if you have problems with your jaw, the temporomandibular joint and any surrounding facial muscles that are also responsible for the functionality of the jaw.
To ensure that you may have TMD, you should check for the following symptoms:
Any persistent pain around your jaw joint, or facial, neck and shoulder muscles. You may also have pain in or around your ears.
Restricted ability to move your jaw, making it challenging to open your mouth wide.
Experiencing lock jaw, where you jaw seems to get stuck when it is either in the open or closed position.
Strange sounds including popping and clicking when you try to open or close your mouth.
Finding it a challenge to chew as the teeth in the upper and lower jaw do not fit well together.
Recurring headaches, or headaches which never seem to go away.
Swelling on both sides of the face.
Ringing in the ears, as well as popping sounds. This may make it challenging to hear.
Dislocation of the jaw which may occur when you open the mouth wide.
Treatment options for TMJ/TMD
TMJ/TMD is not something that you should self-diagnose and self-treat. Once you believe that you may have some of the symptoms, you should get in touch with your dentist.
To reach an adequate diagnosis, the dentist may also for imaging tests, including an MRI or CT scan. These are usually preceded by a panoramic X-ray. The X-ray is done first to ensure the problems are not caused by any other issues. The MRI is for observation of the soft tissue around the joint, whereas the CT scan looks at the details of the bones in the joint.
One way to treat TMD patients is to have a night guard made. This guard allows your jaw to rest at night in the proper position to alleviate pain that your bite and/or clenching and grinding habits may have caused.
There are other ways to help alleviate pain from TMD, these can be discussed with your dentist on a case by case basis.