What Is TMJ Disorder (TMD)?
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, also known as TMD, is a condition characterized by the malfunction of the joint, and can be the result of a misaligned jaw, repetitive teeth clenching, teeth grinding, or simply overuse. If this joint becomes hyperactive, damaged, or inflamed, you may experience varying degrees of jaw muscle pain and other symptoms. To address these symptoms and the causes of TMD, our experienced dentist—John Cross, DDS—offers his patients a number of treatment options that can permanently realign the jaw, restore muscle balance, and alleviate discomfort.
- What Does the TMJ Do?
- Causes of TMJ Disorder
- Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
- Other Areas Affected by TMJ
- Will TMJ Disorder Go Away?
- TMJ Disorder Treatments
What Does the Temporomandibular Joint Do?
The temporomandibular joint connects the jawbone to the rest of the skull and is used each time we chew or speak. This joint is integral to a person’s ability to easily move the mouth and jaw. When the temporomandibular joint malfunctions, simply opening and closing the mouth can cause pain.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
There is no one common cause of TMJ disorder. Consequently, receiving a proper diagnosis from an experienced dentist is essential for understanding which treatment plan is best suited for your needs. Possible causes of TMD include:
- Teeth grinding
- Clenching the jaw
- Physical injury or damage to the jaw
- Jawbone dislocation
In rare circumstances, the cause of TMD may remain undiagnosed even after a physical exam and testing. Treatment may still be provided in these cases.
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
TMD is a serious condition that can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty or discomfort when eating
- Popping or clicking of the jaw muscle and/or bone
- Frequent headaches
- Unexplained dizziness
- Trouble opening and closing the mouth
- Facial pain
- Shoulder, neck, and back pain
- Numbness or tingling through the arms or fingers
To determine if you are suffering from TMD, Dr. Cross will perform a careful examination of the mouth, bite, jaw, face, and neck. Once Dr. Cross has evaluated your condition and diagnosed it as TMJ Disorder, he will recommend an appropriate treatment plan.
Why Does TMJ Disorder Affect Other Areas of the Body?
Though the cause originates in the jaw joint complex, TMD can ultimately lead to pain in other areas when left untreated, including the face, head, neck, shoulder, and/or back. To better understand why, consider how the body compensates for a weakened knee by placing more weight on the opposite leg. Over an extended period of imbalanced walking, the body can become misaligned causing hip and lower back pain to develop. Similarly, when the temporomandibular joint malfunctions, consistent imbalance and muscle tension in the jaw may improperly engage the musculature of the face and head, which can eventually spread strain to the neck, shoulders, and back. Fortunately, by addressing the source of TMJ Disorder, symptoms that have cropped up in other areas of the body can also usually be resolved.
Will TMJ Disorder Go Away on Its Own?
TMJ Disorder typically does not resolve without treatment. Unfortunately, ignoring the initial signs of TMD often leads to a worsening of the symptoms. Promptly addressing TMD by receiving an official diagnosis can provide insight into which method of TMD treatment can provide you with relief.
What TMJ Treatments Are Available?
If you are diagnosed with TMD, a number of treatment options are available that can alleviate your pain or permanently resolve the condition. Bite realignment and muscle balance therapy can often be accomplished with customized oral appliances, nightguards, or orthodontics. In some cases, tooth restoration can also help restore the normal function of the TMJ.
Your personalized treatment plan will be based upon the results of a comprehensive oral exam, diagnostic testing, and a thorough discussion of your symptoms. Dr. Cross will work with you to discover the source of your TMJ Disorder to relieve chronic pain and resolve joint dysfunction.
Contact OC Lifesmiles
If you believe you may be suffering from TMJ Disorder, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Cross, please contact us today.