TMD Specialist Discusses Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder)?

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) refer to a group of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the muscles around it. The TMJ is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. TMD can cause pain and dysfunction in the TMJ and surrounding muscles.

Causes of TMD

There are numerous potential causes of TMD, including trauma to the jaw, grinding or clenching of the teeth, arthritis, and stress. It is important to evaluate each case carefully to determine the specific cause or causes of TMD in that particular instance.

Trauma to the jaw is a common cause of TMD. It can occur due to a direct blow to the jaw (such as from a punch or sports injuries) or repetitive stress on the jaw joint (such as chewing gum). Grinding or clenching of the teeth is another common cause of TMD. It can occur due to stress or during sleep. Arthritis is another potential cause of TMD. It is often seen in older adults with degenerative joint changes. Stress is also a common trigger for TMD. Stressful events can lead to muscle tension and increased clenching and grinding of the teeth.

Symptoms of TMD

The most common symptom of TMD is pain or tenderness in the jaw. This pain may be constant or may only occur when moving the jaw. Clicking or popping noises when opening or closing the mouth are also common, as well as difficulty or discomfort when chewing. Other symptoms include earache, headaches, dizziness, and neck pain.

TMD can cause headaches, neck pain, and earaches. These problems can be caused by several different factors, including poor posture, teeth grinding, and TMJ disorders.

Headaches can be caused by an imbalance of neck and jaw muscles, a common symptom of TMD. It can lead to tension headaches or migraines and refer to pain in other areas of the head or face.

Neck pain is also associated with TMD due to the same imbalances, poor posture and improper use of the TMJ. The pain may be focused on the neck and spread to other body areas.

Earaches are more likely to occur when TMD is left untreated for a long period, as this can cause misalignment between nasal passages, teeth, and temporomandibular joints. This inflammation leads to pressure on the ear canal, causing discomfort in both ears at once.

Diagnosis of TMD

There are several ways that TMD can be diagnosed, including a physical exam, imaging tests, and a review of the patient’s medical history and symptoms.

A physical exam is often the first step in diagnosing TMD. Your dentist or doctor will look for signs of TMJ disfunction, such as pain or tenderness in the jaw, popping or clicking, and limited jaw movement.

Imaging tests like X-rays or MRI can also help diagnose TMD. These tests can help to rule out other potential causes of jaw pain, such as dental problems or arthritis.

Reviewing the patient’s medical history and symptoms can also help diagnose TMD. Your dentist will ask about any previous episodes of jaw pain or TMJ dysfunction and any other medical conditions that may be causing or contributing to the current problem.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose due to various symptoms and causes. The most common symptom is pain in the jaw, which can be caused by several things, including teeth grinding, infection, arthritis, and muscle tension. Other symptoms include clicking or popping sounds in the jaw, headaches, earache, and chewing pain.

Many people with TMD don’t have all these symptoms, which can vary in intensity. For example, someone with mild TMD might only have occasional pain when chewing, while someone with severe TMD might have constant pain in the jaw that prevents them from eating or talking.

There are several treatment options for TMD, but finding the right one can be difficult. If you think you might have TMD, it’s important to see your dentist or doctor so they can rule out other potential causes of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Treatment of TMD

There are several treatments for TMD, depending on the underlying cause. Sometimes, simply making lifestyle changes such as avoiding hard or chewy foods, maintaining good posture, and avoiding clenching or grinding your teeth may alleviate symptoms. In fact, the NIDCR also recommends a “less is often best” approach in treating TMJ disorders.

Physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles can also be helpful. If pain is severe, over-the-counter or prescription pain medication may be necessary. In some cases, dental appliances such as mouthguards or splints may be recommended to help keep the jaw in alignment and protect the teeth from wear and tear.

Surgery is only necessary for the most severe cases of TMD; even then, it is often only a last resort. Surgery should only be considered after all other conservative treatment options have been exhausted. If surgery is deemed necessary, various surgical procedures can be performed to correct the underlying problem. The type of surgery will depend on the individual case and the severity of the condition.

Types of surgery used to treat TMD include:

* Arthrocentesis — used to remove excess fluid from the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
* Arthroscopy — a tiny camera is inserted into the TMJ to help diagnose and repair any damage present
* Open-joint surgery — may be necessary if the joint is severely damaged or there are major deformities in the bones of the jaw
* Damaged disc reconstruction — involves reconstructing or replacing the disc between the two joints of the TMJ.

Surgery for TMD has its risks and side effects, such as infection, nerve damage, and facial muscle paralysis, so it should not be taken lightly.

Prevention of TMD

Preventing TMD can be as simple as avoiding hard or chewy foods, practising good posture, and wearing a mouthguard during sports or other activities that could cause jaw trauma. Here are a few tips to help you avoid TMD:

Avoid hard or chewy foods: Hard and chewy foods can put undue stress on your temporomandibular joint and may cause TMD symptoms. To help prevent these symptoms, avoid chewing gum and eating tough meats or crunchy vegetables.

Practice good posture: Good posture helps align your spine, which can take pressure off your TMJ. To practice good posture, stand up straight with your shoulders back and down, and keep your head level. Sit in a chair with your back straight and feet planted firmly on the ground.

Wear a mouthguard during sports or other activities: Wearing one during activities that could cause jaw trauma can help protect your TMJ from injury. If you play contact sports such as football or hockey, wear a mouthguard to help prevent TMD symptoms.

Relax your jaw: Tension in the jaw can cause TMD symptoms, so it is important to relax your jaw by avoiding clenching and grinding your teeth. Avoiding stressful situations that may cause you to clench or grind your teeth can also help prevent TMD symptoms. To help relax your jaw muscles, massage the area around your TMJ and gently stretch your mouth open and closed.

See a dentist: If you experience discomfort near your jaw, see a dentist as soon as possible to rule out TMD. Your dentist may be able to recommend treatments such as splints or bite guards that can help prevent further damage or provide relief from existing symptoms.

If you have TMD or are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with the disorder, it’s important to seek medical attention. TMD can be difficult to diagnose, and only a qualified medical professional can determine whether or not you have the condition.

Symptoms of TMD can vary but may include pain or tenderness in the jaw, face, neck, or shoulders; clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw; pain when chewing; lockjaw; and headaches. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see a doctor immediately.

Searching for a TMD specialist in Fort Lauderdale? We can help!

Our team is here to help you. Schedule a consultation with our Fort Lauderdale dentist to learn more about the solutions available for people just like you dealing with TMD discomfort. We will provide a thorough examination to determine the best course of treatment for your TMD. 

Relief may be closer than you think. Contact our dental office in Fort Lauderdale, FL to learn more today.