TMD/TMJ

TMD and TMJ: What is it?

A common misconception is that TMD and TMJ is the same thing. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull in front of your ear. In between your skull and your lower jaw and in front of your ear is a piece of cartilage, a disc, which helps the joint move smoothly. Muscles attached to and surrounding the joint control the position of your lower jaw. It is very common that disorders of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) are incorrectly called TMJ, instead they should be called TMD (Temporomandibular disorder).

TMJ Anatomy

TMD (Temporomandibular disorder) happens as a result of problems with your jaw, your jaw joint and the muscles that control chewing and moving. Sometimes it can also be due to a combination of these factors. The causes of TMD are not always clear, but mainly symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.

The Causes of TMD:

  • Injury to your jaw, your TMJ (joint)
  • Injury to the muslces of the head and neck which is why you often experience neck pain and/or headaches
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth placing pressure on the TMJ (joint)
  • Presence of arthritis in the TMJ
  • Stress that causes you to tighten your face and jaw mucles or clench your teeth
  • Dislocation of the soft disc in between your jaw joint and your skull

The Symptoms of TMD:

If you have TMD you can experience a wide variety of pain and discomfort not only in your jaw joint but also in all your muscles of your face, jaw and the rest of your head and neck. Sometimes the pain is temporary, other times it lasts for years.

  • Facial pain
  • Limited ability to open your mouth
  • Your jaw gets stuck or locked in place
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty eating, chewing or talking
  • Your bite feels uncomfortable
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Tired/sore jaw in the morning
  • Toothache (your TMD pain makes it feel like a toothache)
  • Earache

Diagnosing TMD

TMD disorders can be extremely difficult to diagnose due to the complexity of your muscles and jaw joint. The pain often masks itself as a toothache, sinus infection, ear infection or various types of headaches.

We will begin with taking a detailed health history looking for any traumas, medications, injuries or procedures or conditions that could contribute to your symptoms. We also physically examine your muscles, mouth, face, joint, and head and neck areas to note any pain and tenderness. Any limited motion or locking of the jaw or joint noises is also noticed. We also have you fill out forms that can help us evaluate how severe your TMD is and how much is affect your every day life. Sometimes an X-ray is also needed.

Treating TMD

We use a wide variety of treatment options to treat TMD and to tailor individual treatments that fit your exact problems. Our treatment options include:

  • Patient education
  • Physical therapy exercises
  • Medications
  • Occlusal/night guards
  • Protrusive guards
  • Ionophoresis
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Arthrocentesis
  • Botox (only used for pain not for cosmetics)