The Skinny on TMD/TMJ


Teeth in a day torrance

We all worry about our health and, as Americans, our oral health is often at the top of our list (do we need cosmetic dental work? should we whiten our teeth?). 97% of American adults say that having a nice smile is an important social aspect. But if you suffer with TMD, or temporomandibular disorders, if may be difficult to keep up with good oral health. Here are a few things you need to know about TMD.

What is it?
Dental websites describe TMD as problems related to the jaw- either the bone and/or the joint- and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving. These issues are almost always related to TMJ (the temporomandibular joint) which most people will confuse with TMD. This joint functions as a hinge that connects the lower jaw to the skull and allows the jaw to move up and down and side to side.

Although not much is known about the initial causes of TMD (is it psychologically induced?), other causes include injury to the jaw, grinding or clenching the teeth, dislocation of the disc between the ball and socket of the joint, and stress.

A good dentist will make sure to list TMD symptoms if you have any concerns. Many will experience pain or tenderness in the joint area or around the ear when opening the mouth. There may be a limited ability to open the mouth, or it may lock in place. Clicking, popping, and grating sounds are the most common symptoms.

A dentist will have to make sure to rule out other issues, such as arthritis or gum disease, before being sure that you have TMD. Next they will normally check to see your jaw’s range of motion and listen for any clicking sounds when asked to open and close the jaw. Looking for cracks, scratches, or scrapes on the teeth is a tell tale sign of TMD.

Treatments range from self-care to injections and surgery. A dentist may recommend that cosmetic dental work is needed. Using hot and cold compresses can alleviate pain, as with eating soft foods. Laser therapy can be used to reduce inflammation. Mostly, a dental specialist will have you wear a splint or night guard. Learning relaxation techniques can also be beneficial if TMD was brought on by stress.

TMD can have detrimental affects to our teeth when we are older and if the issue it not addressed early. Look for the signs and symptoms of this disorder and be sure to consult your dentist and receive proper care, which may include cosmetic dental work.

Great references here.

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