woman biting appleThe Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the hinge that the jaw depends on to open and close. The joint is crucial to many daily dental activities like chewing, talking, and yawning.

One dental issue that often occurs is “TMD” or TMJ disorders. Many disorders arise from the dysfunction of this joint, bringing severe pain to sufferers. These disorders have lead to the rise of TMD treatment.

Sometimes, TMJ and TMD are used interchangeably. While some people refer to lockjaw as TMJ, lockjaw is actually a disorder. This would make it a TMD.

Although a single cause is not known, it is thought to be the result of problems with the muscle that support and move the joint. Some possible causes include:

  • Grinding/clenching teeth
  • Arthritis in the jaw
  • Stress that brings extreme facial tension

What Are The Symptoms?

Most often occurs in middle-aged people. TMJ can also cause intense headaches and other general pains in the neck and shoulders.

If you experience any of the follow symptoms, you may have TMJ:

Pain

Among the most common symptoms is a recurring feeling of pain in your face, neck, mouth, or shoulders.

Limited Movement

If you have a disorder, you may find it hard to move your mouth normally. Simple activities such as speaking, eating, and chewing can become painful.

Audible Noises During Mouth Movement

Often, those with this oral disorder may hear noises such as clicking or grating while speaking or eating. If these also include movement difficulty, you should contact a dentist.

Lockjaw

This is the inability to move or “locking” of the jaw bone. If you suddenly have difficulty when opening or closing your mouth, you could have an untreated TMD.

Facial Swelling

Too much irritation of the TMJ can cause muscle swelling. This can extend to any facial muscles as well.

What Can Cause These Disorders?

Though many scientists are unsure what cause these disorders, there are many possible culprits:

Clenching or Grinding Teeth

Though grinding mainly wears down teeth, many grinders don’t realize that grinding puts added pressure on the TMJ

Dislocation of Articular Disk

If you dislocate this crucial disk located between the ball and socket of your jaw, it might be the cause of several disorders.

Joint Damage

Damage to the TMJ through extreme physical contact or other disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may weaken the TMJ.

How Is It Treated?

There is a whole range of possible oral treatment options available to sufferers of TMD. Depending on the severity, a doctor may choose to use any of the following treatments:

  • Heat or cold treatment
  • Surgery that places the disc back in its proper position
  • Medications that act to relieve muscle tension and any inflammation
  • A night guard that prevents clenching and grinding
  • Relaxation techniques that help prevent grinding

If you live in the greater Austin area and would like more on treatment of TMD, contact our office today. Dr. D’Alfonso and our team of dental professionals can use many treatments to give patients their bite back. 512-253-7300