Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is a group of disorders that shares a common theme: misalignment of the joint that connectsthe upper and lower jaw. This joint allows your upper and lower jaws to move up and down, from side to side, and back and forth. Muscles attached to the jaw position the jaw in various positions and work in conjunction with the TMJ to allow you to talk, chew, and conduct other activities that require you to move your jaw.

There are 3 main types of TMJ/TMD syndromes:

  • Myofascial pain (pain in the jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles)
  • Internal derangement of the TMJ (such as from a displaced or dislocated joint)
  • Degenerative joint disease (such as from arthritis)

It’s possible to experience more than one condition at a time.

The most common syndrome is myofascial pain and it tends to be occasional and temporary. However, for some, the pain associated with TMJ /TMD conditions is chronic. Not only can TMJ/TMD conditions reduce quality of life, it can have a long-lasting impact on your health.

Understanding TMD/TMJ symptoms

Understanding TMJ/TMD can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment which can mean nipping pain in the bud.

Some of the most common symptoms of TMD include:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Neckaches
  • Clicking or popping of the jaw
  • Jaw locking
  • Soreness and discomfort in the jaw area
  • Tooth grinding (bruxism), frequently during sleep
  • Excess tooth wear
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • A misaligned bite, in which the upper and lower teeth do not fit together properly

Additional symptoms may include:

· Jaw movement restriction, particularly if the TMJ is displaced

· Ear symptoms/dizziness

· Light sensitivity

· Back and shoulder pain

· Depression from chronic pain

· Inability to sleep

Detecting TMD/TMJ syndrome

A health care provider such as a neuromuscular dentist can detect TMD/TMJ syndrome by:

· Examining the area of the jaw joints and chewing muscles for pain or soreness

· Listening for jaw clicking sounds

· Examining the range of motion of the jaw

· Determining the ideal resting position of your bite using a transcutaneous electro-neural stimulation (TENS) device to relax the jaw muscles and comparing this position to your current bite position

How can a neuromuscular dentist help?

A common cause of TMJ/TMD syndrome is poor dental work. A bite can become misaligned because a crown or filling sits incorrectly in the mouth or because porcelain veneers are improperly fitted. A neuromuscular dentist can assess the relationship between your teeth and jaw muscles and find solutions that will allow you to achieve an ideal bite. Even if you don’t currently have TMJ/TMD syndrome, a neuromuscular dentist can help prevent this condition by helping you maintain the proper structure and alignment of your jaw.