The causes and treatment of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)

Posted By: Varun Sharma

The temporomandibular joint is a structure that connects the temporal bone of your skull and the jaw. There are two of them, on each side of your face, in front of the ear. This “hinge” allows you to move your jaw side to side and up and down, enabling you to chew, yawn, talk and open your mouth.  Any problems with your jaw and the face muscles that are responsible for the jaw movement are known as temporomandibular disorders. In many cases, these problems are referred to as TMJ, but this is the name of the joint and not the disorder.

The causes of TMD

Dentists and doctors don’t really know what the causes of TMD are. It is believed that problems with parts of the joint and the jaw muscles could produce the TMD symptoms. Suffering an injury to the jaw joint, jaw muscles or the jaw itself can lead to TMD. There are also a series of other causes that may lead to temporomandibular joint disorder, including:

  • Clenching and grinding your teeth. This puts a lot of pressure on the joint and the surrounding muscles.
  • Arthritis in the joint.
  • The movement of the disc or soft cushion between the ball and the socket of the joint.
  • Stress, which causes you to tighten the jaw and facial muscles.

The symptoms of TMD

TMD can cause severe pain and a lot of discomforts. The TMD symptoms can be temporary, or they could last for many years. It is quite common for people to have problems with only one joint, causing them TMD on one side of the face. Women are more likely to suffer from TMD, especially at ages between 20 and 40.

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Common TMD symptoms include:

  • Problems when trying to open the mouth
  • Pain and tenderness in the jaw joint area, face, neck, and shoulders
  • The jaw gets stuck in the open or closed position
  • Tired feeling in the face
  • Popping, clicking or grating sounds in the jaw joint
  • Trouble chewing
  • A sense of misaligned teeth
  • Swelling on one side of your face
  • Headaches

People who suffer from TMD may also have toothaches, neck aches, earaches, dizziness, upper shoulder pain, hearing problems, and ringing in the ears.

The treatments for TMD

If you think you suffer from TMD, you could contact your dentist. There are a series of treatments that can help you manage the symptoms.

  • You can ask your dentist to prescribe you a higher dose of NSAIDs if you feel you are not able to handle the pain and swelling. The dentist could suggest a series of muscle relaxants to help you relax your jaw muscles.
  • Nightguard. Your dentist can create a custom mouth guard to prevent you from grinding and clenching your teeth. This will slowly relax your muscles and put your teeth in a correct
  • Dental work. In some cases, a replacement of the missing teeth may be necessary to correct a bite problem.

Your dentist will also advise you to eat soft foods until your TMD is gone. You could use moist heat or cold packs on the side of your face for around 10 minutes to help your face muscles relax. For more information about TMD you can ask your dentist, as each case may be different. Your dentist can determine the cause of your temporomandibular joint disorder after a thorough examination.