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What is TMJ disorder and TMD? | Weston Dental Blog

What is TMJ disorder and TMD?

The Temporomandibular Joints (TMJs) are the joints in your jaw. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD, also frequently called TMJ disorder) refers to a number of possible problems that can arise within the TMJ or surrounding area. Low level TMDs may affect a large percentage of the population – up to 50% in one study. In some cases, TMDs can become severe, leading to chronic pain and limiting the movement of the joint. According to a recent survey, up to 9 million Americans suffer chronic pain from TMJ disorders.

What are symptoms of TMDs (TMJ disorders)?

Since TMDs are a family of problems, there are a large variety of symptoms. Common symptoms include clicking or popping noises coming from the jaw joints, pain in the jaw or nearby regions (face or neck), difficulty opening the mouth fully, a sticking or locking sensation in the jaw, or a feeling of discomfort when biting or pressing teeth together. Some forms of TMD can also cause headaches or earaches.

What are causes of TMDs (TMJ disorders)?

TMDs are generally caused by damage or misalignment of the joints and muscles in the jaw area. Accidents and sports injuries are one way this can happen. TMDs can also develop gradually, such as by grinding or clenching the teeth chronically, arthritis, or a misaligned jaw which receives stress when chewing. Diseases or substances (such as nicotine) that effect muscles can also cause TMDs to develop.

How are TMDs (TMJ disorders) diagnosed and treated?

If we suspect TMD in one of our Weston area dental patients, we will first look at X-rays of the jaw, and examine the patient’s bite action and jaw muscles. Further tests may then be needed to narrow down the severity and exact type of TMD. There are a variety of treatments for TMDs; one common treatment is to ‘rest’ the jaw by minimizing chewing and jaw motion, often involving a soft or liquid diet. Another option is to add a piece of plastic known as a bite splint to the teeth, which adjusts the way teeth fit together in order to minimize stress on the TMJ. Treatment is generally effective – the vast majority of cases treated by licensed dentists result in reduced or eliminated symptoms.

If you feel that you may have a TMJ disorder based on the symptoms you are experienced, please contact our Weston area dental office to make an appointment for a TMJ disorder assessment.

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As a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM), Dr. Pyle is part of an elite group of dentists who have met the highest educational and experiential standards, possessing an in-depth level of knowledge in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea using oral appliance therapy.