What is temporomandibular disorder (TMD)?
Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a term used to describe a group of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and the muscles that control jaw movement.
The temporomandibular joints, or TMJ, are the joints that connect the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. These joints are located on either side of the head, just in front of the ears, and are responsible for allowing the jaw to move up and down and side to side, which enables activities such as talking and chewing.
TMD is relatively common; with estimates suggesting that about 1 out of 7 people is affected.
What are the signs and symptoms of TMD?
The signs and symptoms of temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can vary depending on the specific condition and the individual, but some common signs and symptoms include:
- Broken fillings or teeth
- Worn down front teeth or chipped teeth
- It can mimic severe toothaches
- Dental Implant failure and fracture
- Headaches or earaches
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, face, neck, or shoulders
- Limited ability to open or close the mouth
- A popping or clicking sound when opening or closing the mouth
- Locked jaw or jaw that gets stuck open or closed
- Tenderness or pain in the temporomandibular joints (TMJ)
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and repeated sore throats
- Facial swelling and sinus congestion
- Difficulty chewing or biting food
- Bruxism (teeth grinding) or clenching
It’s important to note that some people with TMD may not have any visible symptoms but are at risk of developing any of the above at any time if they are left untreated, and some people may have symptoms that come and go.
What causes TMD?
Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:
- Stress and tension can cause clenching or grinding of the teeth (bruxism).
- Trauma or injury to the jaw, head, or neck.
- Misalignment of the teeth or jaw, or irregular bite (Occlusion).
- Arthritis can cause inflammation in the temporomandibular joints, leading to TMD.
- TMD can also be caused by some medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lupus.
- Genetics may also play a role in the development of TMD.
It’s important to note that TMD can also be caused by a combination of these factors, and in some cases, the exact cause of TMD may not be known.
How TMD can be caused or exacerbated by an improper occlusion
Occlusion is the way that the upper and lower teeth fit together when you bite down or close your mouth. It’s important that they fit together just right because it affects how your jaw and teeth work together.
When your occlusion is not correct, it can cause problems with your jaw and teeth, such as pain or difficulty opening or closing your mouth, causing temporomandibular disorder (TMD.
Additionally, an improper occlusion can also cause teeth to wear down unevenly and can lead to the development of other dental problems such as tooth decay or periodontal disease.
How Is TMD Diagnosed?
It’s important to note that other conditions such as sinusitis, dental issues, or even migraines can mimic TMD symptoms, therefore a proper diagnosis is important to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
If you think you may have temporomandibular disorder (TMD), it’s important to visit a healthcare professional for an evaluation. A dentist or oral surgeon who specializes in TMD, or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor will be able to diagnose TMD based on your symptoms and a physical examination.
The diagnosis of TMD begins with taking a thorough medical history, including a description of symptoms, and a physical examination of the jaw, head, and neck. The healthcare professional will likely ask you to open and close your mouth, move your jaw from side to side, and feel for any tenderness or pain in the jaw and surrounding muscle areas.
Additionally, the healthcare professional may use the following diagnostic tools to confirm TMD:
X-rays: These images can help the healthcare professional evaluate the condition of the jaw, the teeth, and the temporomandibular joints (TMJ).
Bite registration: This is a diagnostic tool that is used to record the way the upper and lower teeth fit together.
CT scan or MRI: These imaging tests can provide detailed images of the jaw, the teeth, and the TMJ, which can be used to diagnose TMD and rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms.
Take a T-scan: this will give accurate information as to how your teeth are making contact and diagnose any imbalances. It can also detect hyper or uncoordinated muscle activity.
What are the treatments for TMD?
The treatment for TMD (temporomandibular disorder) can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s symptoms. Here are some common treatments for TMD:
We recommend and see improvement with the following.
T-scan adjustment and bite balance: this can be combined with dental laser and bite splint therapy.
Bite splints or oral appliances: By realigning the jaw and relieving stress on the joint and muscles, custom-made bite splints or mouth appliances can be used to aid with TMD symptoms.
Laser Photobiomodulation Therapy: low-level lasers have been used for over 30 years to improve pain tissue healing and inflammation. It works at a cellular level and is harmless and very effective.
Lifestyle changes: In certain cases, TMD symptoms can be reduced with the use of lifestyle modifications such as stress management strategies, jaw exercises, and avoiding hard or chewy foods.
We prefer that this be used as a second line of treatment:
Injections: Corticosteroid injections or Botox injections can sometimes be used to treat jaw joint discomfort and inflammation.
Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants, which reduce discomfort and inflammation brought on by TMD, may be recommended as pain relievers. Antidepressants and muscle relaxants such as diazepam.
Physical treatment: Physical therapy with a qualified therapist, can assist with jaw muscle strengthening and range-of-motion enhancement, which can lessen discomfort and enhance function.
Surgery: Surgery is often only suggested as a final option for treating TMD and only in the most severe instances after all other therapies have failed.
At Longwood House Dental Practice, we are proud to offer the latest in dental technology, including the T-Scan system and dental laser. With our trained dentists and the use of the T-Scan, we can provide a precise diagnosis and treatment of your dental problems and TMD symptoms, and create a customized treatment plan based on your individual needs.
If you are experiencing any dental problems as a result of TMD or have TMD symptoms, we invite you to book an appointment with our dentist.