Understanding And Treating TMJ/TMD

If you are experiencing clicking, popping, stiffness, and pain of the jaw bone, especially if it occurs when opening and closing your mouth, you may have a condition affecting your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. While surprising to learn, pain and stiffness of the joint not only affect your jaw bone. Many people with the condition also experience headaches and migraines, facial pain, ear pain, and even aches and pains of the neck and shoulder. Fortunately, help is available. This guide will help you understand TMJ and TMD to ensure a successful and efficient diagnosis and treatment.

1. TMJ and TMD Are Different

When most people hear the term, "TMJ," they immediately think of the condition. In reality, TMJ is the actual part that is affected by TMD or temporomandibular disorder, so understanding the differences is key.

Again, TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, which is the joint located on both sides of the jaw bone. This joint is essential for opening and closing the mouth, moving the upper and lower portions of the jaw.

Various issues can affect the actual temporomandibular joint and surrounding tissues, causing inflammation, stiffness, and pain. This is known as TMD or temporomandibular disorder.

2. Causes of TMD Vary

Just like with other joints in the body, the jaw joint may develop arthritis. Arthritis of the TMJ may occur over time as a result of basic aging, or the inflammation and irritation of the jaw joint may develop after an injury or trauma to the mouth. Arthritis that stems from trauma is known as traumatic arthritis.

It is also important to note that some habits and traits can increase the risk of developing TMJ disorder.

The constant clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth, for example, places pressure on the upper and lower teeth in addition to the actual TMJ. Known as bruxism, this habit can wreak havoc on your underlying oral health and wellness.

Some studies have also shown a genetic link between patients who have TMD. Therefore, if you have a close family member with TMD, you may also develop the disorder.

Also, many patients with misaligned bites suffer from TMJ disorder.

3. Treating TMD Is Possible

Now that you understand the difference between TMJ and TMD and its causes, you may be wondering about treatment options. Thankfully, there are a few treatment options available, and the option suited to you will depend on the severity and cause of your TMD.

If your TMD stems from bruxism, learning healthy ways to cope with stress can be helpful. Dentists and orthodontists also recommend wearing a mouthguard at night or while resting to reduce pressure and damage to the teeth and TMJ.

Orthodontic treatment, such as palatal expanders and braces, may be recommended as well.