Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD): Exploring The Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Have you ever experienced a gnawing pain or tenderness in your jaw? If yes, then you could probably be suffering from temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). If you notice a clicking sound or grating sensation while chewing, then it is time you consult your dentist. 

Uptown Phoenix dentist offers a comprehensive approach that can help relieve you from the excruciating pain and other symptoms of TMD. 

What is the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)?

The TMJ connects your jawbone to the skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw that acts as a sliding hinge and controls your jaw movements. It is a crucial joint that helps in movements like speaking, biting, and chewing. 

Temporomandibular joint disorders, popularly known as TMD, are the disorders of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and nerves associated with chronic facial pain. Any problem that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones, and joints from working together in harmony may result in temporomandibular disorder. 

Potential causes of TMD

There is no single cause for TMD since it can result due to several contributing factors. These include:

  • Family history
  • Trauma to the jaw (jaw fracture or dislocation)
  • Bruxism (persistent grinding or clenching of the teeth)
  • Arthritis (joint inflammation)
  • Malocclusion (improper alignment of the teeth)
  • Chronic stress
  • Lifestyle habits like poor posture and excessive gum-chewing

Characteristic symptoms of TMD

TMJ dysfunction symptoms vary widely and may include the following:

  • Excruciating jaw pain
  • Facial pain around the ear
  • Stiffness and soreness of the jaw
  • Shoulder or neck pain (referred pain)
  • Lockjaw (difficulty or inability to open or close your mouth)
  • Clicking sound of the joint
  • Headaches, toothaches, earaches, and migraine
  • Tinnitus (a feeling of ringing in the ears)

TMD treatment

TMD treatment usually depends on the severity of your symptoms. Once your dentist evaluates your oral cavity, checks your jaw ROM (range of motion), and assesses the pain intensity, an appropriate treatment plan is executed.  Treatment includes:

  • Tips to follow at home
    • Eating soft foods
    • Preventing excess mouth-opening
    • Massaging the affected TMJ
    • Alternative hot or cold compress for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Conservative approach 
    • Prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications
    • Oral splints or mouth guards (occlusal appliances)
    • Physical therapy
    • Muscle relaxing injections

Wrapping up

TMJ is an important facial joint that aids in movements like speaking, biting, and chewing. Any abnormality or injury of the joint could lead to temporomandibular dysfunction that causes severe pain and tenderness. However, with early diagnosis, proper home care, and a conservative approach, your dentist can help alleviate your symptoms and treat the condition.