Oh boy. Is that jaw pain getting out of hand? Orthodontists and other dental health specialists help treat such cases. You may have come across the terms TMJ, TMD, and TMJ-TMD Treatment when describing your problem in online forums.
Such acronyms refer to a part in all our mouths. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, whereas TMD stands for temporomandibular Joint Disorder. This joint is a small cartilage disc allowing us to perform several movements with our jaws.
Whenever you open your jaws, move them sideways, or close your mouth, you are using your TMJ. No biggie. Such movements are only necessary if you want to talk, yawn, or chew.
Understandably, people who suffer pain whenever they perform these common activities require help as soon as possible to ease the pain and solve the constant discomfort.
Do you suffer from TMD? Will you require TMJ-TMD Treatment? What does that treatment include?
How Do We Determine You Require TMJ-TMD Treatment?
We should start with an important clarification: the exact causes of TMD remain unknown.
Several risk factors could contribute to such a problem, but there’s no clear answer in the medical field as to what exactly causes this disorder.
We could consider a combination of factors, such as genetics, arthritis, direct trauma to your jaws, developmental problems, bruxism, and more. Still, as confused as we may be in the medical field as to the origins of this disorder, there’s no denying it when a patient reports the symptoms.
The first step in diagnosing TMD is to go over the patient’s entire medical history and a physical exam. We want to check if there are any additional risk factors in your family that may contribute to TMD. Interestingly enough, several studies, including this one, point to an apparent relationship between female hormones and TMJ Disorders.
There is no clear correlation, but such research helps inform specialists about the treatment you may require.
The physical exam helps check your jaw joints for pain or tenderness when you perform specific movements. We will also be on the lookout for clicking and popping sounds or jaw-locking. All of this helps test your bite and verify if there are problems with your facial muscles.
Of course, such initial examinations can reveal a lot, but we won’t limit ourselves to what our eyes can see. We will use x-rays to get a better look at your facial bone structure to rule out any additional complications.
Depending on your case’s severity, your orthodontist might coordinate treatment with another specialist, such as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and request additional advanced imaging like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computer tomography (CT).
Causes and Symptoms Indicating You Require TMJ-TMD Treatment
Even if there are no clear relationships between one single thing and TMD development, we can tell you what happens in your body when you have TMD. the temporomandibular joint, those cartilage discs we mentioned before, combines hinge and sliding motions.
TMD results from the erosion of those disks or when they are out of alignment. In some cases, we have observed such damage following severe trauma to a patient’s face or alongside a medical history of arthritis.
Now, let’s talk about the clinical signs indicating you should look for professional help to treat your TMD.
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Constant headaches
- Difficulty chewing
- Pain during the chewing motion
- Facial pain radiating towards your neck and up your head
- Locking of your joint
- Clicking sounds as you open or close your mouth
- Swelling on the side of your face
Keep in mind that if you only suffer minor discomfort, you could let your orthodontist know and still don’t need specialized treatment. Still, if you feel constant pain or any of the above, contact a professional for more help.
What Does TMJ-TMD Treatment Include?
Treatment is mainly limited to the management of clinical signs. Depending on your condition’s severity, you could manage your symptoms at home, require help from an orthodontist, or coordinate with a team of specialists for surgical intervention.
Home TMJ-TMD Treatment
NSAIDs (short for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help you relieve muscle pain. Ice packs to the side of your face and temple area for 10 minutes will also help. Some simple jaw stretches will also relax the area, but make sure you ask a physical therapist if you are doing them right. Combine cold compresses with stretching movements and a warm towel at the end for 5 minutes a few times each day.
Some patients may benefit from switching up their diets. Many individuals report difficulty chewing, so incorporating soft foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes, soups, scrambled eggs, fish, beans, and rice, might prove useful.
Please consider cutting foods into smaller pieces to avoid biting down and tearing your food with your teeth. Likewise, avoid crunchy or hard foods that will only exacerbate the pain.
A word of advice: over-the-counter painkillers might help, but avoid prolonged use and self-medication. If you notice you’ve needed these drugs for a long time, you should consult with a professional.
Specialized TMJ-TMD Treatment
Some medication may be available through prescription only, so having a professional review your case and indicating exactly what you need could help. Your orthodontist can help design a custom-made nightguard. This mouthpiece fits over your teeth, preventing tooth grinding and helping lessen the negative effects of constantly clenching your teeth.
If your condition has any correlation with a jaw misalignment, an orthodontist, like Dr. Steve or Dr. Gary could help plan an alignment strategy that balances your bite and prevents excessive wear, and corrects your bite problem.
If your condition appears to hold a relationship with jaw developmental problems or bone structure malformations, you might benefit from coordinated work between orthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
Consider checking out this summary of the surgical options available to patients suffering from TMD, courtesy of the mayoclinic.
Get Help From a Professional Team
Get in touch with our teams serving Westport and Norwalk, CT. We take great pride in working alongside our communities to help educate the new generations of dental health specialists.
If you have any questions about the symptoms we described earlier, you can set an appointment online to get the help you need.
Hope to see you soon!