TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorder, affects as many as 10 million Americans each year, yet surprisingly few people have heard of this common condition. Some people also refer to is as TMJ, but both are the same issue which is characterized by problems using this important joint.
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We each have two temporomandibular joints, one on each side of our skull. This is the main joint that connects the jaw to the skull, which is located at the base of the skull in front of the ear structure. The joint is held together by ligaments all originating from different parts of the head and neck. When these ligaments work together, they support the jaw and facilitate the movements that we rely on day to day. In addition to opening and closing like a hinge, the temporomandibular joint also enables the lower jaw to slide both forwards and downwards. This movement is known as translation and enables us to eat, speak and yawn.
The temporomandibular joint disorder occurs when there are issues that prevent the joint from being used properly. There are many different things that can cause TMD, and sometimes they occur in combination with one another, worsening the severity of the condition. Some of the most common causes of TMD include:
Bruxism, a condition that is characterized by subconscious or unconscious clenching or grinding of teeth. Bruxism also leads to a range of other problems including tooth damage, enamel erosion, persistent headaches, and poor quality sleep.
An uneven bite, which is where the teeth do not come together perfectly when closed.
Suffering from osteoarthritis, a condition that is defined by the inflammation and degeneration of joints in the body including the TMJ.
Traumatic injury to the neck, face or head.
Persistent or high levels of stress. This is because people who are stressed are more likely to subconsciously clench or tighten their muscles.
Recognizing that you are experiencing temporomandibular joint disorder isn’t always as easy as you might think. This is because a lot of the symptoms are mild and easily overlooked. However, eventually they will become impossible to ignore and include:
Persistent headaches, particularly when you first wake up
Persistent earaches or tinnitus
A feeling as though your ears are blocked
Pain in your face and jaw
Clicking, popping and grinding noises when you move your jaw
Swelling in the sides of the face and/or neck
Stiffness and/or lockjaw
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you could be suffering from TMD and should arrange to be assessed by our expert dental team.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from TMD, the first step is to obtain a diagnosis. Our experienced and knowledgeable dental team are able to provide prompt, accurate diagnosis of the condition so that treatment can begin as quickly as possible.
There are a range of therapies that we may recommend you try before we progress to surgical treatment. These include using hot/cold compresses, anti-inflammatory medications, prescription medications that are designed to relax the muscles and joints, and even physical therapy. However, if these prove to be unsuccessful, we may refer you for orthodontic treatment or bite realignment surgery.
Orthodontic treatment typically takes the form of either conventional braces or a clear aligner such as Invisalign. These solutions gradually shift the position of the jaw and teeth so that they come together much more accurately, often reducing the effects of TMD. Bite realignment surgery is a fairly straightforward procedure, carried out under anesthetic, that works to improve the way that your teeth meet when you close your jaw.
Occlusion, Joint treatments and rehabilitation are advanced disciplines that are not taught in any dental school in the nation. Dr. Shayesteh completed a two-year rigorous training program at the F.A.C.E foundation and was awarded a prestigious certificate for Post-Graduate Study in Advanced Occlusion, Restorative and Prosthetic Techniques. Worldwide, only 14 dentists were selected, accepted and graduated from this elite program for the 2015-2017 mentorship training. The skills he attained from this program enables him to treat patients with joint dysfunctions & pain, rehabilitate & reconstruct full mouths, and perform complex dentistry in the most minimally invasive and most conservative modalities also known as Biomimetic Dentistry.
If you are concerned that you may be experiencing TMJ/TMD, our expert team would be happy to help. Please contact our offices in Culver City, CA today to schedule your confidential consultation.