TMJ and TMD are both terms that are frequently used to describe Temporomandibular joint disorder. The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the bones of your skull—this joint allows you to talk, chew, and move your jaw up and down or from side to side. Problems with this joint are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Problems are also often referred to as TMJ (which refers to the joint).
What causes TMJ/TMD?
The cause of TMJ/TMD is not always known, but there are a variety of issues that can lead to temporomandibular joint problems. Some common causes include:
- An accident that injures the jaw or the muscles in the head and neck. A car accident that results in whiplash, is one example of an injury that could lead to TMJ/TMD
- Grinding teeth (often this is subconscious and it can happen while you are sleeping)
- Clenching the jaw—this is often the result of stress
- Damage to cartilage near the joint
- Erosion or shifting of the shock-absorbing disc
- Having a misaligned bite
- Having fatigued muscles in the area around the joint. In some cases these muscles become fatigued because patients tighten facial muscles when they are stressed.
What are symptoms should you look out for?
Common symptoms of TMJ/TMD include:
- Frequent jaw pain
- Clicking or popping when you chew food or talk
- Frequent headaches and migraines
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Facial asymmetry or swelling
- Grinding the teeth or jaw
- Frequent neck, shoulder, or back pain
- Having the jaw get temporarily stuck in one position
If you notice some of these symptoms, you may have a problem with your temporomandibular joint.
How are problems treated?
The treatments used to correct problems with the temporomandibular joint will vary depending on your condition. In some cases, problems are temporary and resolve on their own. In other situations, lifestyle changes that reduce stress can correct problems. Occasionally, a minimally invasive surgical procedure is required, but many patients have success with non-invasive treatments.
Don’t keep living in pain and putting yourself at risk for long-term problems or permanent damage. If you have signs of TMJ/TMD contact Dr. Nagel to learn more about diagnosis and treatment.