Family Dentistry of Ocean City
Robert W. Yaskin, D.M.D. LLC
421 15th Street
Ocean City, NJ 08226
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If you have pain in your jaws or related headaches, you may have Temporo-mandibular Joint Disorder, TMD. You are probably wondering what this is — and how it can be treated. If this sounds like something you may have, read on for some answers.
What is TMD? TMD describes a group of disorders or diseases that have the same symptoms, but may have different causes, hence it is known as “The Great Imposter.” Pain in and around the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), the jaw joint involved in opening and closing your mouth — is characterized by pain and soreness in the region of one or both joints, ears, jaw muscles and even the sinuses.
How does the temporo-mandibular joint work? You can feel your jaw joints working if you place your fingers in front of your ears and move your lower jaw up and down. On each side the joint is composed of an almond shaped structure at the end of the lower jaw, called the condyle, which fits neatly into a depression in the temporal bone (the bone on the side of your skull near your ear). A small disc between the two bones allows the lower jaw to move forward and sideways. The joints are stabilized by ligaments and moved by muscles, like all your joints.
What is the most common cause of TMD? Many people clench or grind their teeth as a reaction to stress. This is generally a subconscious habit, and can even occur during sleep. Continual tooth grinding habits can cause the muscles to go into spasm, which is the most common cause of TMD pain. Structures associated with the jaws — teeth, air sinuses, and even neck and back muscles — share nerves with the muscles in the joints, so the pain may be felt in those structures too, making the exact source of the pain difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of TMD may limit your ability to open your jaw and talk or eat normally.
What is the treatment for TMD? Treatment will depend on the cause, but generally the first step is to relieve pain and discomfort with heat, mild painkillers, muscle relaxants, a soft diet, and simple jaw exercises. A bite guard may be recommended, which should be custom made in our office; a rigid yet unobtrusive plastic appliance that fits over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. Properly fitted and adjusted, it aids and causes jaw muscle relaxation by preventing clenching and grinding. It is worn during times of stress when oral habits tend to recur, and can also be worn at night.
If you are suffering from TMD — whether the pain is moderate or severe — schedule an appointment with us to have it evaluated and treated. You can learn more about TMD by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “TMD: Understanding the Great Imposter.”
You have probably heard a lot of people talk about TMJ disorders, but do you know what it all means? How do you know if you are suffering from a TMJ disorder?
Below are answers to some common questions about TMJ disorders.
What is a TMJ disorder?
First, we should explain that TMJ actually refers to the Temporomandibular Joint, which is the formal name for your jaw joint(s). TMD stands for Temporomandibular Disorders, which is the correct name for the muscle and/or joint symptoms that commonly arise when there is TMJ pain and dysfunction. You may have heard people refer to the actual disorder as TMJ, but this name is incorrect.
When I experience TMJ pain, what exactly is happening?
Let's first understand all of the parts that play a role in your pain. The temporomandibular joints connect your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull on both the left and right sides, which makes the lower jaw the only bone in the body with completely symmetrical joints at both ends. There is a ball-and-socket relationship between your jaw and your skull on both sides, but the unique part is the presence of a cushioning disk between the two surfaces in each joint. Each TMJ has a disk between the ball (condyle) and socket (fossa), and this sometimes ends up being an especially important area when trouble arises.
So, how do I know if I have TMD?
You can never be absolutely sure, but here are some symptoms you should be sure to share with us during your examination:
If diagnosed, what can I expect from treatment?
We will first need to assess the damage to your TMJ, and from there we will recommend a course of treatment to relieve your pain. Treatment may range from hot or cold compresses and anti-inflammatory medications to physical therapy or a bite guard. We may also advise you to do jaw exercises at home. In general, we will do our best to treat your issue without orthodontic treatment or surgery.
If you would like more information about TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Seeking Relief from TMD.”
When treating Temporomandibular (jaw joint) Disorder (formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJ), we feel we have two equally important challenges facing us. First, we must start your treatment by relieving the symptoms of pain and discomfort. We typically accomplish this with heat, mild pain medications, a diet of soft foods, and some simple jaw exercises. Once we have begun to relieve your pain, our second critical objective is to identify and remedy what is causing the pain. It could be the result of an injury or trauma to the jaws and/or teeth or it could be due to a bite issue or a filling or crown that is too high and thus causing a misaligned bite. There are many other reasons, so it is first necessary to obtain a thorough medical history and conduct a comprehensive evaluation so that we can properly diagnose and treat the TMD condition and what is causing it.
Next to stress resulting in clenching and grinding habits, the four most common causes leading to TMD include:
If you or another family member suffer from chronic jaw pain, please let us know so that we can properly address your concerns and conduct a thorough examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”