TMJ and TMD are acronyms referring to the temporomandibular joint and temporomandibular disorder, respectively. The temporo­mandibular joint is a central part of your mouth, and many of the disorders that affect it can have consequences that also affect the rest of your mouth’s health. The Center for Esthetic Dentistry knows that understanding this complex part of the anatomy and its disorders can be confusing, so we wanted to explain some important terms and what they mean for you.
Understanding the TMJ
The human body is a marvel of engineering, and one of the most incredible parts is the hinge-like joint that allows our lower jaw to swing open and shut. Known as the temporomandibular joint, it is at the center of an interdependent system of bones, ligaments, discs, and muscles. When there is a problem with any one of these interlocking parts it can cause problems for the whole system. Unfortunately, the TMJ is at a high risk for problems because we use it all day long, every single day, every time we eat, talk, or even just yawn.
When there is a problem with the TMJ itself or one of the parts that it relies on we call that a temporomandibular disorder. This is a very broad category of disorders because there are so many different things that can potentially go wrong with and around the TMJ. TMD can commonly be recognized by soreness in your jaw, swelling, sensitivity, difficulty opening your mouth wider than normal, and even ear and headaches. Sometimes you can actually hear TMD if your jaw clicks when you open it, but other times clicking might be completely benign. Diagnosing TMD can be difficult, and its symptoms are not always obvious, so an expert opinion is recommended.
What Causes TMD?
To be completely honest, there is still a lot that even us dentists are still learning about TMD. We know that there are many potential causes of jaw disorders but diagnosing the precise one can be difficult without a comprehensive examination. Still, there are a few common things you can be on the lookout for when dealing with TMD. A significant portion of all TMD stems from chronic teeth grinding, officially known as bruxism. TMD can also be caused by injuries to the jaw, often sustained while playing sports. Arthritis and misaligned teeth can be behind TMD as well.
How We Treat TMD
Due to the complexity of conditions affecting the TMJ, we treat every case of TMD uniquely. We always start by getting to know you and your medical history before administering an exam. We keep you informed about everything we find so that we can decide on the correct course of action together. Dental appliances like crowns and bridges, orthodontic treatments like braces, and drugs and surgery may all be able to help alleviate your TMD.
Do You Have Jaw Discomfort?
If you are feeling chronic discomfort in or around your jaw, then it could be a temporomandibular disorder. To get your professional diagnosis at The Center for Esthetic Dentistry, call us today at 541-507-0999.