What exactly is TMD/TMJ?

In recent years, more and more people are hearing about TMD and TMJ at the dentist’s office. As is the case with many acronyms discussed at large, people might be wondering what exactly TMD and TMJ are, and what is in store for your teeth if you are diagnosed. Today we’ve decided to put the spotlight on this little understood condition to better spread awareness and understanding of this disorder among our patients.

What does it stand for?

TMD stands for temporomandibular disorder(s). TMD is used to refer to any sort of problem with your jaw and the face muscles associated with controlling the jaw. The acronym TMJ actually stands for the temporomandibular joints, which connect your jaw to the temporal bones within the skull. These allow the jaw to function properly when you’re talking or yawning, or chewing food for example. When people refer to TMJ as a condition, they actually mean TMD, but are mistakenly calling it by the name of the joints, which can lead to some confusion.

What is the cause of TMD?

The dental community is not sure of a single direct cause of TMD, but many believe that it all stems from problems patients might experience with their jaw muscles or the joint areas. Those with a history of jaw injury, or who have experienced problems with their joint or head and neck muscles (whiplash for example) might find themselves diagnosed with TMD. Those subject to tooth-grinding might also be at risk. Extraneous movement of the disc between the ball & socket of the TMJ, arthritis, and stress can also act as contributing factors.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Aside from pain and discomfort, those who are concerned about TMD should look out for

  • pain or tenderness in the areas that have been mentioned
  • trouble chewing or biting
  • limited range of motion when you try to open your mouth wide
  • lock-jaw (closed or open)
  • clicking or popping sounds as you use your jaws
  • tiredness or swelling in the facial area

So if you’re worried about any of these symptoms, make sure to talk to us about it at your next appointment! If needed, we can conduct an initial exam of the area and possibly take x-rays to determine what treatment options we can consider. As in most dental scenarios the sooner we can act, the healthier you can be!