Definition of TMJ/TMD
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, your jaw joint. TMJ syndrome or TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) is a health problem regarding your jaw joint function. Typical symptoms include clicking, popping, or crunching in the jaw. It can be accompanied by jaw or muscle pain, a jaw that locks in position or is difficult to open, headaches, fullness or ringing in the ears, and even numbness in the face and fingertips.
Types of TMJ Problems
TMJ problems fall into three categories:
- Myofascial pain – This is the most common type of TMD, resulting in discomfort in the jaw, shoulder muscles, or neck.
- Internal derangement of the TMJ – This can involve a dislocated jaw, displaced disc within the TMJ or injury to the condyles (the rounded ends of the lower jaw that fit up into the jaw joint).
- Degenerative joint disease – Such as osteoarthritis in the TMJ or jaw joint.
We can treat many TMJ problems in our office. Complex cases feature collaboration with dental imaging, physical therapists, and oral surgeons.
Most commonly, TMD appears to be related to stress level. TMD is common among patients in high stress professions. TMD is more likely to occur during a period of high level stress. Other common causes of TMD include previous trauma or accidents.
More Women Suffer From TMJ Than Men
TMD pain is much more common in women than men. This could be due to women reporting more TMD symptoms and often having associated headache and jaw clenching problems (sometimes accompanied by grinding or bruxism). Men report less pain and discomfort, but teeth grinding is much more likely to be evident (than is the case with women).
Diagnosis of TMJ
Dr. T.J. Bolamperti can diagnose TMJ problems through a detailed examination. He will examine the teeth, mouth, gums, and tongue, determine level of muscle tenderness, measure range of motion in the lower jaw and perform diagnostic imaging.
Treatment of Low Level, Episodic TMJ Problems
Pain caused by TMD can be episodic and go away without any treatment. Stress may play a factor here; during times of high stress, the body may react by grinding or clenching the teeth at night. The clenching and grinding can decrease if the stress is reduced.
Patients who experience jaw joint problems from time to time may be able to control the problem through self-care exercises. These include: gentle stretching and massaging of the jaw joint, heat or ice packs, avoiding chewing gum, and not opening the mouth excessively wide.
People who suffer periods of prolonged pain or sensitivity in the jaw may require treatment for TMD. In rare instances, the bite may be so compromised that it has to be rebuilt using crowns and veneers. In some cases, orthognathic surgery or orthodontics may be required. Extreme surgical procedures, involving jaw joint disc replacement, are not typically recommended as it is sometimes met with limited success.
For the vast majority of our patients, however, TMJ problems can be easily treated with a specially designed plastic guard that is worn at night. These guards are custom fitted so the “one-size fits all solutions” commonly found in drug stores, may actually do more harm than good.
Everyone’s TMD is different–some individuals are almost pure grinders, others clench but don’t grind, some grind sideways and clench just a little, some clench and grind both, etc.
In summary, fewer than 1 in 100 dentists have the training and experience to diagnose and treat TMD. Dr. T.J. Bolamperti has undergone extensive post-graduate studies and training on TMJ/TMD and is available to help relieve the pain you may be living with due to TMD.