Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders occur when the joint connecting your jaw to the temporal bones of the skull, and the muscles that control it, do not work properly. A short name for these disorders is TMD.
Q: What causes TMD?
It is still not known what exactly leads to this condition, but researchers have provided us with some clues. Injury to the joint, the jaw, or the associated muscles are thought to cause TMD. Some other possible causes are as follows:
- Clenching or grinding your teeth, putting pressure on the joint
- Stress, causing you to inadvertently tighten facial muscles
- Movement of the disc between the socket and the ball of the joint
Q: What are its symptoms?
Tenderness in your face. You may think it’s a bad toothache because the whole face hurts. Even the neck and shoulders can hurt when you open your mouth.
- A clicking sound when you try to open your mouth
- Jaws that get locked when the mouth is opened or closed
- Popping of the jaw when you eat
- Swelling of the face, usually on the side
- Toothaches, headaches, earaches
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Q: How is it diagnosed?
It is important to correctly diagnose TMD, as other conditions such as tooth decay, advanced gum disease, and migraines can cause similar symptoms. Your dentist will first conduct a physical examination and ask about your health history. He or she will ask that you open and close your mouth to check for popping sounds, jaw locking, and problems with your bite. A full face X-ray, an MRI scan, or a CT scan can help to detect TMD. It may be necessary to refer you to an oral surgeon for advanced treatment.
Q: Can TMD be treated at home?
Relief from symptoms is sometimes possible with over the counter medicines, heat and cold packs, maintaining good posture, and chewing only soft foods.
Article Summary: For diagnosis and lasting relief from TMJ disorders, visit a professional dentist.