What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) occurs when your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is out of alignment. The TMJ is the joint connecting your lower jaw to your skull. It is responsible for enabling the jaw to function properly.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has determined that 5-15% of Americans suffer from TMD. This disorder afflicts women more than men, and women ages 30-50 are most at risk.

Causes of TMD

Frequently, it is difficult to isolate the exact cause of TMD. However, some of the main causes include:

· Arthritis

· Grinding teeth at night

· Dislocation of disk between the jawbone and jaw socket

Symptoms of TMD

The symptoms of TMD are:

· Jaw pain

· Ear pain

· Problems chewing

· Facial pain

· Locking jaw

· Headaches

· Migraines

· Clicking and popping in your jaw

· Uneven bite

Treatment

If you suffer from TMD, you need to see a neuromuscular dentist. These dentists specialize in realigning your jaw to eliminate problems caused by TMD.

At your first visit, your neuromuscular dentist will go over your medical history with you. He will also examine your jaw, listening for clicking noises and checking for proper range of motion. He will examine your bite for the presence of any irregularities and check for wear and tear on your teeth indicative of grinding.

If it is determined that you suffer from TMD, you have several different treatment options. The following medications can be effective in relieving the pain and symptoms you are experiencing:

· NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) – these are generally not strong enough to completely relieve your pain issues

· Tricyclic antidepressants

· Muscle relaxants – can be very effective, but are highly addictive

· Cortico steroids

Your dentist can also provide you with a number of devices that will help correct the issues causing your TMD. You may need to wear a bite guard at night to prevent grinding your teeth. Orthotics are also very effective in treating TMD. They are worn over your teeth to correct your bite.

Stress can be a strong contributing factor to TMD. You are much more likely to grind your teeth at night when you are under a great deal of stress. Therefore, your dentist may recommend some of the following stress management techniques in conjunction with these other treatments:

· Deep breathing

· Muscle relaxation

· Meditation

· Yoga

If none of these methods successfully address your TMD problems, you may need surgery. However, this is generally considered a last resort. Most TMD cases can be corrected without surgery.