What is TMJ?
TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint itself, which is the sliding hinge between your jaw and your skull. This is the joint that allows you to speak, chew, and perform most of the movements of your mouth. As with any other joint, the bones of this joint are connected by muscles and a tendon referred to as the temporal tendon.
What is TMD?
TMD refers to a disorder of the TMJ. Disorders of this joint are generally related to the limited or painful movement of the joint and sometimes include arthritis. Disorders range from temporary to chronic, but most complaints consist of pain in the mouth, face, or ear and may also include difficulty chewing.
TMD does not have a singular cause but can be related to genetics, habits such as teeth grinding, or caused by illness or injury. The cause of these disorders can help better inform your dentist of which treatments may be most beneficial.
Your dentist will help create a treatment plan for your TMD based on diagnostic imaging and a thorough dental exam. TMD is commonly treated through medication, therapy, or in severe cases, surgery.
Medications for TMD typically consist of anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Muscle relaxers may help loosen symptoms of a tight and painful jaw.
Steroid injections may be another route to help support ailing TMJ muscles and tendons in more extreme cases, and in recent years, Botox injections have proven highly effective in relaxing jaw tension and improving the discomfort associated with TMD.
Treatment of TMD can include physical therapy and exercise to help stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles. Therapeutic devices such as oral splints or mouth guards can help prevent grinding and clenching, which can aggravate the joint. If these issues are behaviorally based, such as in cases of trauma or addiction, counseling may also help address the root cause of TMD.
In more severe cases of TMD, surgical solutions may be necessary. Surgical interventions for TMD include:
- Arthrocentesis, which involves inserting small needles to remove fluid or debris in the joint.
- Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique using a small incision to help repair joint damage.
- Condylotomy, a surgery of the mandible rather than surgery on the joint itself.
Depending on the case, minimally invasive treatments may be sufficient to treat TMD. However, there are rare cases that may require open-joint surgery to resolve.
Enjoy Life Without TMD Pain
TMD includes the myriad of disorders that affect the temporomandibular joint, causing pain and discomfort in your jaw and face. Treating the muscles, tendons, and bones can help ease these symptoms. Typical treatments may include medication to relax muscles and reduce inflammation, physical therapy to reduce joint strain, and surgery to repair the damage. If you think you might suffer from TMD, contact your dentist for a thorough evaluation.