If you’ve ever experienced pain in your jaw, ear, or temple area that comes and goes, you may have temporomandibular joint dysfunction, commonly called TMD. When you hear this term, you may wonder, “What is TMD?” According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, temporomandibular disorders are two times as common in women as they are in men, especially in women who are 35 to 44 years old. However, TMD can affect people of all demographics. Here’s what you should know about TMD to better understand the condition and find the relief you need.
What Is TMD?
TMD refers to issues affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and surrounding muscle and tissue. The TMJ connects your jawbone to your skull. When it doesn’t function properly, opening or closing your mouth can cause pain. Along with jaw pain, symptoms include headaches or migraines, earaches, difficulty chewing or speaking, and catching, clicking, or popping noises when you open your mouth. TMD has several causes. Stress and teeth grinding often contribute. Arthritis, joint injuries, and muscle tension can also be factors. Even misaligned teeth may put pressure on the TMJ.
Getting an Accurate Diagnosis
Seeing a qualified healthcare professional is the first step toward determining if TMD is causing your discomfort. They will examine your jaw’s range of motion and feel for problems in the joint, muscles, or ligaments around it. You may then be referred for further evaluation or imaging tests. These provide a detailed view of the TMJ and surrounding tissue, revealing issues X-rays can’t detect.
Finding Effective Treatment Options
The good news is that most TMD cases don’t require surgery. Less invasive treatments typically relieve pain and help restore function. Which approach will work best depends on your specific symptoms and their underlying cause. Applying moist heat or cold packs helps soothe muscle tenderness and inflammation. Your healthcare professional may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers as well. They may also provide dental devices that change how your teeth fit together to take pressure off the TMJ. For moderate to severe TMD, trigger point injections, Botox, prescription muscle relaxers, physical therapy, stress reduction techniques, and/or orthodontics may be warranted. Surgery is generally a last resort reserved for serious joint damage.
Now that you’ve received the answer to the question “What is TMD?” the next step is dealing with the condition. The key is tailoring treatment to target your unique pain triggers. With an accurate diagnosis and customized care, most patients achieve lasting TMD relief. Contact TMJ Care today to get started on your treatment.