Have you ever heard someone say “I have TMJ” and not quite understood what they meant? The acronym simply stands for “temporomandibular joint,” which are the joints that connect your lower jaw to the rest of your skull. When someone says they have TMJ, what they might actually mean is that they have TMD, temporomandibular joint disorder. What exactly is this disorder, and what are some signs that you might be suffering from it?
What Is TMD?
In its broadest sense, TMD is almost any problem that affects or is affected by the temporomandibular joints. It may lead to hundreds of different symptoms, but here are some of the most common indicators of TMD:
- Headaches and migraines
- Facial pain
- Jaw joint pain
- Forward head posture
- Pain or pressure in the eyes or ears
- Clenching and grinding of the teeth
- Light sensitivity
- The sensation of lockjaw
- Sinus issues
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Abnormal tooth wear near the gum line
What Causes TMD?
There are several possible causes behind TMJ problems, including:
- Stress. Stress may cause you to grind and clench your teeth; some people even do this when they’re sleeping, so they may not be aware of the issue. The constant pressure of teeth grinding and clenching can cause problems for the TMJs.
- Trauma. Whether an injury is obvious or subtle, trauma to the head or neck can lead to TMD.
- Airway obstruction. Enlarged adenoids or sinuses may partially block your airway. Without even thinking about it, you may adjust by repositioning your jaw, which can put extra stress on the TMJs.
- Poor posture. Keeping your head forward all the time may retrude your lower jaw and place extra stress on the neck and shoulders.
- Malocclusion. Otherwise known as a “bad bite,” this is when your teeth do not fit together properly when you bite down.
What Treatments Are Available for TMD?
TMD is very common; it affects an estimated 5 to 12 percent of the population, afflicting more women than men. Yet, despite the prevalence of this condition, many physicians do not understand it. They may even incorrectly diagnose it because its symptoms so often translate to other parts of the body. This is why TMD is often referred to as “The Great Imposter.” It mimics other conditions of the ear, throat, spine, facial, and headache pain, just to name a few.
Dentists, especially those who specialize in physiologic-based dentistry, are often better equipped to diagnose and treat this serious disorder. They understand the temporomandibular joint and how it relates to the muscles and tissues around the jaw and teeth.
To treat your TMD, your dentist may provide you with a custom orthotic appliance, which can be worn throughout the day. This will realign your jaws, allowing the muscles to relax.
TMD is a serious condition that can negatively affect your quality of life. If you suspect you have it, please head to your dentist as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.
About Dr. Bryce
Dr. Robert Bryce is a skilled physiologic based-dentist who has devoted much time to studying the TMJ and the areas around it. If you suspect you have TMD, he would be pleased to assess your situation and help you find relief from your pain. Please contact us at 571-223-6221.