What is TMD?
Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are characterized by craniofacial pain, dysfunctional or structural changes of temporomandibular joints (TMJs), disc derangement or a combination of the forementioned. This term has sometimes been mistaken as TMJs which only indicates the anatomy of jaw joints.
TMDs affect approximately 10% of the population. The most common signs and symptoms are pain in the muscles that control jaw movement, or in the TMJ(s). These are the main reasons for patients to seek care. Due to the complex anatomy of the head and neck area, pain referral is very common. Often times, TMDs pain can mimic toothache, sinus pain, or even ear infection.
Other signs and symptoms which are commonly found in temporomandibular disorders include:
- Inability to close/open your mouth all the way
- Jaw is stuck in a certain position
- Limited mouth opening
- Difficulty or pain upon chewing, talking, smiling or any jaw movement
- Joint sounds – clicking, popping, grating noises usually accompanied by pain
- Clenching/grinding at nighttime or daytime
- Aching or dull pain around your ear
- Tinnitus or ringing in your ears
Cause of TMDs
There are many contributing factors to TMDs. Major trauma such as a fall incident, a motor vehicle accident, head trauma, or a sports injury impacting the jaw area is highly related. Other minor trauma including nighttime clenching and grinding, nail-biting habits, and involuntary jaw muscle contraction can also contribute to this condition. Genetic disorders or certain medical diagnoses such as arthritis is are also a risk factor for TMDs.
The course of temporomandibular disorders is usually intermittent or episodic. In some cases, pain can become more persistent. If left unmanaged, this could potentially cause further joint damages. Early management or identification of such contributing factors can prevent avoidable consequences and improve prognosis.
Treatment varies depending on which component of your jaw is affected: muscle, TMJs, or disc. History taking, clinical examination, and radiographic imaging are essential methods to establish the correct diagnosis. According to evidence-based treatment research, it is recommended to start with non-surgical treatments prior to undergoing TMJ surgery. There are some circumstances when minor surgery can be beneficial. Occlusal guard, medication, physical therapy, and trigger point injections are some examples of the non-surgical treatments.
Are you a new TMD patient? To save time, you can download these forms and bring them with you on your first visit:
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