TMJ or temporomandibular joint is a complex joint that connects the lower jaw, mandible, to the temporal bones on the side of the skull. The combination of circular and translational movement of the joint accommodates the upward and downward movement of the mandible which enables chewing, talking, and yawning.
What is TMD?
TMD or temporomandibular joint disorder is a term assigned to problems pertaining to the temporomandibular joint. Problems relating to the muscles controlling the movement of the joint or the joint itself are categorized as TMD. Diagnosis of TMD is difficult owing to the complex nature of the joint and the array of symptoms associated with it.
What Causes TMD?
The concrete causes that lead to the development of TMD in patients are still unknown. Researchers are trying to ascertain whether the causes considered to play a part in the development of TMD are the reason for the occurrence of the disease or after-effects of its manifestation. Some of the causes considered to lead to TMD are:
- Physical injury to the jaw, joint or heavy blow to the muscles of neck and head.
- Excessive clenching and grinding of the teeth to an extent it pressurizes the joint.
- Jaw or teeth misalignment.
- Tightening of jaw and clenching of teeth due to anxiety, tension, and stress.
- Displacement or misalignment of the cartilaginous disc between the ball and socket of TMJ.
- Excessive chewing of gum.
What are the symptoms of TMD?
The most common symptom which manifests in patients suffering from TMD is severe pain in the lower jaw. However, in some cases, severe pain develops at a later stage. Other symptoms that allude to TMD are:
- Aching teeth, neck, ears, and head
- Painless clicking, grating, and popping of the joint when chewing, yawning, or speaking is another common symptom of TMD
- Excessive tenderness in the jaw and in areas near the joint
- Stiffness in the jaw muscles
- Frequent jaw locking in open or closed mouth positions
- Impaired vision on instances
- Swelling in the temple region
How can TMD be treated?
Generally, the severity of TMD lessens with time and the symptoms eventually vanish. However, in case of prolonged discomfort and reoccurrence of the symptoms from time to time, patients may be advised to undergo any of the following treatments:
Soft Diet and Physical Exercises
A majority of the TMD cases can be easily tackled by making simple changes in lifestyle and exercising the lower jaw and other joint muscles until the symptoms subside. Some of the changes to be followed to ease the symptoms are:
- Avoid consumption of hard and sticky food. Instead, switch to a soft diet until the symptoms subside.
- Do not chew gum when TMD symptoms continue to persist
- Use teeth or mouth guard to avoid clenching or grinding. Patients need to ensure they do not tighten their jaw muscles frequently or for longer periods of time.
In addition to taking the aforementioned precautions, patients are often advised to exercise their jaw for faster recovery. Massaging the jaw and the area around with coupled with stretching the mandible slightly can provide instant comfort from the symptoms. However, a doctor’s approval is required for following the regime. Applying hot and ice packs to tender muscles around the joint can also help relieve pain and other symptoms.
Trigger Point Injections
In certain cases, changes in diet and physical exercises may not prove enough and joint pain may continue to persist. Trigger point injection treatment offers a non-invasive alternative to relieve the discomfort caused due to pain and other TMD symptoms. The procedure uses small quantities of anti-inflammatory medicines or anesthetics which are directly injected into the sore, stiff, and painful TMJ. Trigger point injections provide instant relief from pain and relax the muscles around the joint eventually lessening the strain and preventing clenching and grinding of teeth. A patient is expected to undergo multiple such sessions for the symptoms to subside completely.
A minimally invasive procedure with fewer complications and shorter recovery time than conventional surgery is being increasingly preferred by patients. In this procedure, the doctor uses an arthroscope, a tool equipped with lens, light, and a video screen. The doctor makes a small incision in front of the ear and inserts the lens into the cut to examine the jaw. Using the video feed the doctor removes the inflamed tissue or realigns the disc between the ball and socket in the jaw.
We, at Bliss Dentistry of Campbell, California, cater to all your needs pertaining to dental services and routine exams. Our Campbell dentists with their entire team persevere to provide you with exceptional treatment that enhances and maintains the beauty of your smile. If you have any further question, queries or dental emergencies and are looking for an experienced dentist in the South Bay Area, feel free to contact us at (408) 963-6678 to schedule an appointment.