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What Is TMD?

Author: Dr. Steven Syrop

Date: December 12, 2022


You might have heard about the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), and this disorder is also called TMJ. If you have felt pain in your jaw, you might have this common condition. Or your dentist might have told you that you have it. If you have questions about it, keep reading to find out more.

About TMD

This is not just a single disorder. Instead, it is a group of several painful conditions. These affect the temporomandibular joint as well as the surrounding muscles. It is not known how many people have the condition. However, women are often affected more than men.

There are three main kinds of this condition. The most common type of TMD is myofascial pain. It is pain or discomfort in the muscles that work with the function of the jaw. It can also cause pain in the shoulder or neck muscles.

With internal damage to the joint, there might be a displaced disk. The condyle might be injured, or the jaw might be dislocated. With degenerative joint disease, the patient might have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthrosis. Someone might be able to have one or more of these conditions at once. Research is still being done on how physical, behavioral, and psychological factors might contribute.

Causes of the disorder

A severe injury to the joint might cause TMD. With a heavy blow, the bones can be fractured, or the disk can be damaged. That can disrupt the motion of the jaw and cause locking or pain. Arthritis can also develop after an injury.

In some cases, a bad bite might also trigger the condition. With orthodontic treatment, such as braces, TMD might be triggered. Some people believe that chewing gum can cause clicking sounds since the joint can be overused in that case. However, if there is only clicking, then the condition might not need to be treated.

Diagnosis of TMD

The symptoms and causes of TMD are still not known. That means that diagnosing them can be hard at times. Currently, there is no standard test that can identify the condition. However, the patient can usually describe the symptoms for a diagnosis. The physical examination will include:

  • Feeling the chewing muscles and joints for tenderness or pain
  • Listening for popping, grating, or clicking as the joint moves
  • Looking for jaw locking or limited motion while the mouth closes or opens

It is also important to look at the dental and medical history of the patient. Many times, this will give the provider enough information to find the source of the pain. Then the jaw problem or pain can be identified. The patient can then get treatment.

Visit a dentist for TMD treatment

If you have pain in your jaw, you might want to consider having a dentist look at your symptoms. If you do have a TMD disorder, then getting treatment can provide you with relief. That will also prevent long-term damage to your joint. Making an appointment today is your first step.

DISCLAIMER: The advice offered in response to your questions is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. Namely, we in no way offer a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendation for your particular situation. Our intent is solely educational and our responses to your actual questions serve as a springboard to discussion of a variety of dental topics that come up in a day-to-day dental practice. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified professional.

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