Many people have heard of TMJ/ TMD, also known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, but few know exactly what it is. We are going to explain what TMJ/TMD is, the symptoms of TMJ and how we can treat it here at our office. As with any medical condition, it is important to visit your doctor or dentist any time you are experiencing pain or discomfort.
What is TMJ/TMD?
The Temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. This hinge allows you to move your jaw up and down as well as side to side so that you can talk, chew, and yawn. Go ahead and place your finger right next to your ear, now move your jaw around. That movement you feel is your Temporormandibular joint. When you experience any problems with this joint, you likely would be diagnosed with a temporormandibular disorder, or TMD.
What are the symptoms of TMJ/TMD?
The symptoms of TMD are not always easy to detect. Because TMD causes facial pain and discomfort, some people mistake TMD with the pain for tension headaches and sinus pressure. It is very important to remember that if you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your face and jaw, you must schedule a visit with a dentist or doctor right away to determine the reason for your discomfort. If you think that you may have TMD, there are a few symptoms to look out for:
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders; You may also experience pain in or around the ear when you chew, speak or even open your mouth
- Problems opening your mouth wide – feeling like your jaw gets “stuck” in a closed or open-mouthed position
- Clicking, grinding or popping sounds in the jaw area when you close and open your jaw or when you chew
- Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite (almost as if your teeth are not fitting together properly) – Facial swelling
- Other symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, toothaches, neck aches and ringing in the ears
How Do We Diagnose TMD?
Since TMD symptoms are similar to other medical conditions like tooth decay, gum disease, sinus problems and arthritis, it is important to have a physical exam done first to rule out any other conditions. We may also request a patient’s medical history to help us determine if there are any other health problems that may be attributing to the discomfort. Once we rule any other problems out, we conduct the physical exam. We check your jaw joint for pain and tenderness, being careful to listen for popping sounds.
We check to see how your jaw is locking, and we also test your bite. After the physical exam, we may take x-rays for a more extensive view of your jaw bone. These x-rays help to rule out any issues with your teeth that may have been invisible in a physical exam. If needed, we will do more extensive testing to show if the discs are in proper position as the jaw moves.
What TMJ Treatment Options Do We Provide?
Since Dr. Lordo is extensively trained in the treatment of TMJ/TMD, we are able to complete many TMJ treatments in the office. If you are diagnosed with TMJ/TMD, there are many treatment options that can help to eliminate your pain and discomfort:
- Depending on your pain level, you may be prescribed an NSAID for pain and swelling. If you are experiencing TMD from stress and anxiety, you may be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication to reduce the cause of your TMD.
- If it is determined that you are experiencing teeth-grinding, which is causing your TMD, we may fit you for a mouth guard to wear while sleeping to help stop the teeth-grinding during the night.
- If we find that you are in need of a more extensive treatment option, we will discuss more in-depth treatment options with you, such as laser-therapy or oral surgery.
We know how uncomfortable mouth and jaw pain can be. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with us. The sooner we can diagnose your pain, the quicker you will begin to feel relief and can return back to a normal, pain-free life.