What is TMJ / TMD?

Here are just a few of many symptoms that might be associated with TMD, or Temporomandibular Dysfunction, a common condition affecting the jaw joint or Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ).

  • Do you ever experience a clicking or popping sound when opening or closing your mouth?
  • Have you been suffering from headaches or migraines, and no one seems to be able to help you?
  • Have you been taking pain medicine for years and would like to get off of it?
  • Do you feel any clogging or congestion in one or both of your ears?

TMJ dysfunction often referred to as TMD, is a conflict between how the jaw joint works in an unstrained position and how the teeth and bite work during those movements. Possible causes of this discord include:

• Tooth loss.
• Accidents (like whiplash).
• Mal-positioned and underdeveloped cranial or jawbones.
• Perhaps habits like clenching or teeth grinding.

Many people suffer from headaches and a variety of facial and neck pains without knowing the ultimate cause, which in many cases is TMJ disorder.

TMJ or The Temporomandibular Joint

They are the two joints that connect the lower jaw to the temporal bone at the head's side. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joint on each side of the head. Because these joints are flexible, the jaw can move smoothly up and down and side to side, enabling us to talk, chew and yawn. When the TMJ is not functioning normally and is not within its physiological limits, it creates a TMD condition or Temporomandibular Dysfunction.

TMD is a group of conditions resulting from not having a normal function or "comfortable" positioning of the TMJ and will present as a cycle of pain, muscle spasms, and jaw problems. When teeth are missing, out of alignment, crowded, or misshaped, chewing and biting cannot be achieved in a balanced way, so the TMJ and the chewing muscles try to compensate for this unbalanced movement which results in symptoms that will confirm the presence of TMD.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) is not just a disorder, but a group of conditions, often painful, that affect the jaw joint or Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and the muscles that control chewing.

TMD falls into three main categories:

Myofascial pain, the most common form of TMD, is discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw functions and the neck and shoulder muscles.

Internal derangement of the joint meaning a dislocated or displaced disc or injury to the condyle (the rounded part at the end of the jaw bone).

Degenerative joint disease such as Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis in the jaw common. Causes of TMJ/TMD

Causes Of TMD

TMJ TMD patient

There are many causes for TMD, such as:

  • Unbalanced occlusion or 'Bad Bite.'
  • Stress (emotional or work/school related)
  • Injury or trauma.
  • Teeth grinding or Bruxism.

Any of the following could cause a 'Bad Bite':

  • Missing teeth
  • Crowded or 'crooked' teeth
  • Worn-down teeth
  • Old crowns and bridges
  • Unbalanced dentures

When teeth are missing or out of alignment, it causes the jaw to shift positions and the muscles to work harder to chew, swallow, bite, etc., and eventually will cause: muscle spasms, tension, and pain.

Muscle tension and misplaced TMJ could cause the TMJ disc to be pulled out of place, which will result in pain, clicking, and popping in the TMJ.

If the disc is displaced for a long time, the bones will start rubbing against each other, and some damage will happen to the bone. This damage is called Osteoarthritis.

If there is inflammation in other joints or bones of the body, it is called Osteoarthritis (Arthritis), which may involve the jaw bone and the TMJ. Some damage to the bone may be evident on the x-rays.

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