Have you ever wondered which joint allows you to move your jaw?
The bones in our body are connected by joints, which enable us to move, and the jaw is no exception. The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are found in front of each ear. This joint allows your jaw to move up, down, and side to side so that you can chew and talk.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD or sometimes referred to as TMJ) are disorders that cause problems with your jaw and the muscles that control it.
Although you may hear people use TMD and TMJ synonymously, they actually refer to two different things, but more on that will be explained below.
The Difference Between TMD and TMJ
Many people use TMD and TMJ interchangeably, due to the common misconception that they refer to the same thing.
However, TMD and TMJ are not the same! TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the small, fragile joint that connects both ends of the jaw bone to the temporal bones. Because this joint is so delicate, it’s vulnerable to damage easily, and can become inflamed or irritated quickly.
On the other hand, TMD stands for a temporomandibular joint disorder, which is a term used to describe the numerous disorders that can affect the TMJ. A TMD occurs when the temporomandibular joint is injured or damaged.
Potential Causes of TMD
A direct cause of TMD has not yet been discovered, however, it is believed that symptoms of TMD emerge due to problems with the muscles of the jaw or the temporomandibular joint itself.
Some causes that injure the jaw and/or its muscles are:
- A massive blow to the jaw or whiplash
- Putting a lot of pressure on the joint by grinding or clenching your teeth
- Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the jaw joint
- Arthritis in the TMJ
These can put a lot of pressure on the TMJ which would most likely lead to a temporomandibular joint disorder.
Common Symptoms of TMD
Did you know that more women than men have a temporomandibular joint disorder?
TMD generally causes severe pain and discomfort on either one or both sides of the face and can last for years. Individuals between the ages of 20 and 40 are the most susceptible to TMD.
Common symptoms of this disease include:
- Earaches, ear infections, and hearing problems
- The feeling of your jaw “locking”
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when you open or close your mouth
- One of both sides of the face swelling
- Trouble chewing and feeling like your upper and lower teeth don’t fit properly
- Pain and tenderness around the ears and in the face, neck and jaw joint area
Many of these symptoms are common to people with a TMD, however, depending on the severity of the disorder, others can experience even more painful and irritating symptoms.
Diagnosis and Treatment of TMD/TMJ
There are many other disorders and health conditions that are similar to a TMD, such as arthritis, tooth decay, and gum disease.
To rule out other conditions, dentists check their patient’s jaw joints for any sign of pain and tenderness, and whether their jaw locks up. A full-face x-ray is also used to look at the jaw and temporomandibular joint to further narrow down the possible causes.
Depending on the severity of the disorder, different treatments are prescribed.
People experiencing a less severe form of TMD are instructed by their doctor to try at-home solutions such as using moist hot or cold pads, eating soft foods, taking over-the-counter medications, and avoiding extreme jaw movements.
If those treatments didn’t help relieve the pain, more extensive treatments are then prescribed.
A certain type of therapy, called Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS, is used. This type of therapy uses low-level electrical currents for pain relief because it relaxes the temporomandibular joint and other facial muscles.
Other forms of TMD therapy include the use of ultrasound, trigger point injections, radio wave or low-level laser therapy, and in the worst case, surgery.
TMD/TMJ Therapy in Kanata
Nobody should have to tolerate the painful symptoms of a temporomandibular joint disorder, and we’re here to help alleviate the suffering and frustration.
Our skilled dentists at Yazdani Family Dentistry in Kanata have made it their mission to help treat people suffering from TMD through several forms of therapy.
Contact us today to learn more about TMD’s and book your appointment with us for a screening.