Temporomandibular disorder is a condition affecting two crucial joints on our face, known as temporomandibular joints. These joints are found on each side of our skull and their purpose is to connect the jaw and allow its movement. The joint itself is held together with ligaments that all originate from different areas of the head and neck. When the ligaments work together properly, they support the jaw and enable it to move up and down in a hinge-type motion, and back, forwards and down. These movements make it possible to obtain maximum use from our jaw – for eating, drinking, talking, and more. Temporomandibular disorder is the result of problems that affect the joints, preventing it from being used properly.
TMD can occur for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes of the condition include:
Bruxism. This is a condition that occurs when the patient subconsciously or unconsciously clenches or grinds their teeth.
An uneven bite. This is where the teeth don’t come together perfectly when the patient closes their mouth/jaw.
Osteoarthritis. This condition is characterized by the inflammation and degeneration of the joints in the body, including the temporomandibular joint.
Stress. Stress is a normal occurrence, but most people only experience short episodes. Nevertheless, persistent stress causes us to tense up our muscles and joints. Many people hold tension in their jaw and don’t even realize it.
Injury. A traumatic injury to the head, face, or neck can cause problems with the temporomandibular joint.
So, how do you know if you are suffering from TMD? There are a number of symptoms that could indicate that there are issues with your temporomandibular joint. You should arrange to go and see your dentist if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Pain in your jaw
- Pain in the lower half of your face
- Persistent headaches, especially first thing in the morning
- Earaches and tinnitus
- Stiffness in your jaw
- Clicking, popping and grinding noises when you move your jaw
- Swelling in the sides of the face under the ear
Your dentist will be able to confirm your diagnosis of TMD, after which they will discuss the various treatment options available to you. There are a number of different therapies that could help to alleviate your symptoms and it may be necessary for you to try several in order to find that which works best for you.
Initial treatments for TMD typically include:
- Using heat/cold applications to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain.
- Anti-inflammatory medications.
- Prescription medications that relax the muscles and therefore ease tension in the joints.
- Physical therapy exercises.
However, if these therapies prove ineffective, your dentist may recommend you consider more intensive treatment. This could include using traditional orthodontic braces to alter the position of your jaw and improve your bite, clear aligner solutions that work in the same way but offer greater convenience and comfort, or even surgery to realign your bite. Your dentist will be able to explain these treatments to you in greater depth, ensuring that you understand what you can expect from them.
Got more questions about TMD and the treatments that are available? Don’t hesitate to speak to our dental team in Rockford, IL.
Alongside TMD Treatment, we offer our Rockford patients the following general dentistry services: Cavities, Dental Cleanings & X-Rays, Endodontic Surgery, Mouthguards, Nightguards, Sedation Dentistry, Urgent Dental Care and Wisdom Teeth Removal.