Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) refers to a number of clinical problems involving the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJs) and associated muscles and structures of the jaw area. Research shows the popping and clicking noises in the jaw joints was present in 40-60% of the population. Considering that normal, healthy TMJs are completely silent at all times, the 40-60% figure is a rather staggering one to consider. A small percentage of patients with TMD have symptoms which degenerate into crippling chronic pain and limited jaw mobility. A recent National Institute of Health study indicates that over nine million Americans suffer from TMJ pain of some level on a regular basis.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
TMD symptoms are variable in nature, with most being a mild annoyance. Common symptoms include:
- Neck and facial pain
- A clicking and popping noise in the jaw joints
- Limited ability to open the mouth
- Buzzing or ringing noises in the ears
- Jaw pain
- Cheek pain
- Jaw locking
- Uncomfortable chewing
Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
Common causes of TMD can include:
- Chronic grinding and/or clenching of the teeth at night (bruxism).
- A malocclusion (bad bites) can over stress the TMJs and related structures when an individual chews.
- Accidents involving trauma to the head, face, and/or neck may lead to partial or total TMJ disc dislocation, stretched or torn TMJ ligaments.
- Extensive dental procedures that have over stressed the muscles, joints, ligaments, nerves, can lead to TMJ ligament inflammation or damage.
- General anesthesia intubations which strain weak TM joints or damage healthy TM joints by overextending the joint while the patient is asleep.
- Arthritis may occur in the TMJs.
- Gout, lupus, scleroderma and fibromyalgia can contribute to TMJ problems.
- Abnormal development of the face and TM joint structures can cause malformation of the TM joint structures and thus dysfunction.
- Research shows that substances such as caffeine, nicotine, and sugar can significantly increase muscle tension and impair their performance.
Treatment for TMJ Disorder
A TMJ screening includes the completion of a thorough TMJ history, 3D imaging of the teeth and jaw joints, and a preliminary clinical examination of the jaw joints, muscle system, bite, and teeth. Following this, a preliminary diagnosis can be rendered. If the preliminary diagnosis is TMJ disorder, then further studies and tests will identify the exact nature of the disorder and assist the dentist in developing a treatment strategy for the patient’s specific health circumstances.
Treatment for TMJ Disorder
Initial treatment for TMJ disorder can range from resting the joints, switching to a soft diet and prescribed medication to stabilization of the joints through the use of a specially designed and custom-adjusted hard acrylic orthotic appliance, also known as a bite splint, that fits on the top of the teeth. The appliance redistributes the stresses on the TMJs, and muscle system while specifically guarding and guiding certain joint movements.
The vast majority of cases we treat are successfully managed through the use of orthotic appliances and/or a combination of orthotic appliance and physical therapy to reduce symptoms and accelerate healing.
The diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders is best done by dentists who have advanced training in TMD and experience with it. Jose David Sanchez at Sedation and Implant Dentistry of Tehachapi has extensive training in TMD and treating TMJ. If you have the symptoms of TMD, give our Tehachapi dental office a call at (661)822-3727 and we can schedule an appointment.