Do you suffer from persistent jaw pain, tension headaches, or worn teeth? If so, you may be suffering from temporomandibular joint dysfunction/disorder (also referred to as TMJ or TMD), a painful jaw disorder that we regularly treat successfully.
TMD affects 20–30% of the adult population; it is more common in women and in those between the ages of 20 and 40. Symptoms include clicking, popping, or grating sounds coming from the jaw; muscle pain that can be felt in the cheeks and temples; jaw joint pain; and severe tension headaches. Though the tension headaches aren’t life threatening, they can be debilitating.
TMD is most often caused by physical stress reactions such as clenching and grinding of the teeth, which commonly occur while sleeping. After administering a series of tests to determine the cause of your headaches or TMD, we’ll develop a personalized treatment plan that works in conjunction with your existing dental lifestyle. Treatments may include managing pain with a special diet, stretching exercises, and anti-inflammatory medications; in some complex cases, treatment may require orthodontics, restorations, and cortisone injections.
We often get asked one very common question: “What is TMD/TMJ?” It’s a great question and here is our answer:
For many people, TMJ refers to pain or locking they may get in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) region of the face. However, people often interchange “TMJ” to mean either the anatomy of the joints or the condition associated with the joints, which is where TMD comes into play.
What is TMD?
TMD is the acronym for TMJ Dysfunction or Disorder, and it is referencing any of the pathologies of the face that are associated with the two temporomandibular joints (TMJ), including the surrounding anatomy (muscles, ligaments, joints and teeth).
In order to gain a better understanding of the causes and the dysfunction associated with TMJs we will take a look at the basic anatomy of the jaw joints. Here is a normal TMJ – Joint and Disc (meniscus) are in the proper locations:
Normal TMJ – Joint and Disc (meniscus) are in the proper locations
When the TMJ is functioning properly, the joint head, or “condyle”, has a highly lubricated joint disc covering it. Similar to the meniscus in your knee joint, the disc acts as a shock absorber. It also provides lubrication to the joint when the mouth opens and closes.
This disc covers the TMJ. In normal cases, there is no movement or vibrations associated when the mouth opens and closes. In our orthodontic office here in Glendale, CA, we will check to see if the jaw is normal or dysfunctional using technology called Joint Vibration Analysis (JVA). When your jaw opens, the disc should stay in place, comfortably seated on the condyle.
Upon opening, the jaw joint head first rotates, then moves forward and down with the help of the lateral pterygoid muscle. When there is dysfunction present, the disc tends to move around as the connective tissue becomes damaged.
In some cases, the ligaments stretch out, which causes the joint disc to sit in front of the jaw joint. At this point, upon opening, your jaw is either stuck, or it may make a clicking or popping sound. When the jaw pops or clicks, that is the sound of the disc moving back in the correct position.
TMJ with Disc displacement – Disc is stuck in front
Essentially, what is happening when your jaw clicks, it’s going from the wrong position to the correct position! For many people, there may be clicking without pain. Over time, the dysfunction in the jaw joint can become worse and painful.
The last phase of TMJ Dysfunction is when the disc becomes completely perforated, or torn. When this occurs, it no longer serves as the protective shock absorber for the joint. Since there is no longer a protective barrier, often times the joint bone will change shape. And, the bone can even break down in a condition known as degenerative joint disease.
What Does TMJ Mean?
When someone says, “I think I may have TMJ,” they really mean, “I think I may have TMJ Dysfunction.”