Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (Known as TMJ or TMD)
What is TMJ/TMD?
First of all, it’s important to understand what people mean when they say “I have TMJ.” Actually when sufferers say they have TMJ, which actually just stands for the Temporomandibular Joint, they really mean they have TMD, which stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. Both terms are used though to describe the condition. TMJ Disorder can be a painful, debilitating condition that often gets worse over time when untreated. Some patients only experience minor discomfort for the condition, other can experience extreme, life-altering pain. TMJ Disorder is a complex condition because there can be so many factors involved. Muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, teeth, and connective tissue can all contribute to the problem, so unlike a broken leg or a cracked tooth, there is usually not just one issue that the doctor or dentist has to deal with when treating the problem. The TMJ connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear. Muscles attached to the jaw and surrounding the jaw joint control the position and movement of the jaw, which allows you to move your jaw side to side or open and close it.
It’s important to remember that when you are opening or moving your mouth, it is NOT normal to experience pain. When everything is working as it should, you should be able to chew, yawn and smile with no pain or discomfort. Any type of pain is one of the several warning signs that something is not right. TMJ Disorder can actually cross over among the specialties of orthopedics, neurology, and dental/orthodontics, leaving the patients sometimes unsure who he or she should visit first.
What causes TMJ Disorder?
Here are some of the common causes of TMD:
Grinding or clenching your teeth
Accident or injury
Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
Stress (Stress is bad for our bodies for a number of reasons….in the case of TMJ Disorder, stress can cause a person to tighten their facial and jaw muscles)
Dislocation of the disc or soft cushion between the ball and socket
Do I have TMJ Disorder?
Some common warning signs
Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders
Pain when chewing or talking
Frequent neck aches or headaches
Waking up with stiff or sore muscles around the jaw
Limited ability to open the mouth
Ringing in the ears
A jaw that gets locked in the open or closed position
Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth (which may or may not be accompanied by pain)
A tired feeling in the face that can sometimes cause a feeling of numbness
Swelling of the face (sometimes just on one side)
Change in your bite
Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
The good news is that in most cases, TMJ Disorder can be treated, and pain relieved, without going under the knife. Treatment may involve the use of a special dental splint, orthodontics, or a combination of both, but diagnosing the type of TMD and severity of the problem can be difficult if a professional does not have the experience and equipment for a proper diagnosis. At Riverbend Dental Center, we have the latest diagnostic equipment to quickly and painlessly determine the severity of your problem.
Because we recognize how serious and common TMJ Disorder is, and that it is often misdiagnosed when the right equipment is not used, at Riverbend Dental Center we have made a big investment in the acquiring the latest and greatest to properly diagnose TMJ Disorder. Because of this cutting edge equipment, we can also show patients on a computer screen, 3d X-rays, and printouts exactly where the problem is, how severe it is, and why it requires the treatment plan prescribed by Dr. Schmidt.
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