TMJ and TMD are interchangeable terms used to refer to temporomandibular joint disorders. The temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to your skull and is responsible for jaw movement. Disorders that affect mobility in the jaw or cause pain and stiffness in the jaw or jaw muscles are considered temporomandibular disorders.
While there isn’t an exact known cause, there are risk factors that can increase your likelihood of having TMJ/TMD, such as grinding your teeth, arthritis, trauma to the jaw or joint, and structural problems. Severe bruxism (teeth grinding) and injury are common potential causes of damage and pain in the jaw.
Pain can be found not only in the jaw or muscles of the jaw but also in the head, behind the eyes, the neck and shoulders, and around the ears (especially when chewing or moving the jaw). The jaw may also become locked, making it difficult to open and close, and may make a clicking or popping noise.
It may be difficult to chew or open your mouth wide. Patients with TMD often experience limited mobility in the jaw and are unable to open the mouth wide. The jaw may be misaligned, resulting in an improper bite. Those with TMD often suffer from chronic migraines and have ringing in the ears.
How is it
There are no clearly defined criteria to diagnose TMD. A diagnosis can be made by examining the patient’s jaw structure, mobility, listening for popping sounds when opening the jaw, and feeling around the jaw for signs of tenderness, discomfort, or pain.
X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs may be taken to get a full view of your jaw, joints, how your jaw is aligned, issues with the structure of the jaw, and how your teeth are sitting in your jaw. Signs of trauma to the jaw and teeth grinding can indicate an increased likelihood of TMD.
A combination of physical and oral exams, scans, and self-reporting by the patient can contribute to a diagnosis. The main symptoms of TMD include pain and tenderness in the jaw, stiffness, lack of mobility, as well as lockjaw and clicking sounds when opening or closing the mouth.
The presence of these symptoms in the absence of other explanations would indicate that the patient has TMD. If you believe you have TMD, you should come in for a consultation with Patrick Stuckey, DDS. Contact us at (318) 255-8648 or schedule an appointment online with Dr. Patrick Stuckey.
The proper treatment for TMD depends on the severity of the patient’s symptoms as well as the cause. Patients who grind their teeth should wear a night guard while they sleep to reduce pressure on the teeth and jaw. There are different designs for mouthguards and occlusal splints, such as repositioning splints or bite plates and talon splints.
TMD may also require physical therapy or surgical correction. Some cases may require referral to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Surgical options include arthroscopic jaw surgery and arthroplasty. Corticosteroids and Botox can also relieve pain associated with the jaw muscles.
Fortunately, TMD also responds well to home remedies such as heat and cold therapy, eating soft foods, massaging the area and doing jaw exercises and stretches, allowing the jaw to rest, taking NSAIDs, and learning how to relax the jaw. We recommend performing these behaviors at home along with formal treatment.