Lincoln, CA

While the two are often used interchangeably, TMJ and TMD actually refer to different things. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint and refers to the network of joints and jaw muscles on each side of the face that work together to allow you to open and close your mouth, chew, speak, swallow, and yawn. TMD, on the other hand, refers to a temporomandibular joint disorder, which is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint, as its name implies. If you have pain, inflammation, or other problems in your TMJs, Lincoln Smiles can help. Allow us to provide an overview of TMD, including what it is as well as how to treat it.

What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)?

Characterized by pain, tenderness, or other problems in the jaw, ears, face, neck, or shoulders, TMD is temporary in most cases and can usually be treated fairly easily with at-home care or nonsurgical treatments.

Common symptoms of TMD include pain or tenderness in the jaw, in one or both TMJs, or in or around the ear; pain or difficulty chewing; swelling in the face; and locking of the jaw in either the open or closed position. Some patients also hear a clicking sound or experience a grinding sensation when chewing or opening and closing the mouth.

Additional symptoms include ringing in the ears, headaches, and pain in the temples. While the exact cause of TMD is unknown, there are certain risk factors that increase the chance of developing TMD. Such risk factors include rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, injury to the jaw, and long-term clenching and grinding of the teeth.

TMD can occur if the joint’s protective cartilage or the shock-absorbing disk that separates the jawbone and the joint is damaged. TMD can also be caused by stress, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, and poor posture.

How Is TMD Treated?

TMD can often be treated at home with the use of ice packs, over-the-counter pain medications, and gentle stretches of the jaw and neck. It also doesn’t hurt to practice good posture, to reduce stress, to avoid chewing gum or biting your nails, and to eat soft foods.

If home treatment does not work, we can evaluate other options to relieve your TMD, including physical therapy or exercises to strengthen the jaw muscles, prescribed muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory medications, or a night mouthguard or bite plate. Sometimes it helps to adjust or reshape teeth to fix an uneven bite.

Most cases of TMD can be resolved using these or other simple, non-invasive treatments. As a last resort, however, surgery may be performed. The type of surgery you need depends on the details of your specific problem, but in general either arthrocentesis is performed to treat a locked jaw, arthroscopy occurs to remove any inflamed tissue or to realign the joint or disc, or in the case of worn down bone structures or tumors in or around the joint, open-joint surgery is used.

While there is not a specific test to diagnose TMD, our friendly experts at Lincoln Smiles can help. We will review your medical and dental histories, including any prescribed and over-the-counter medications that you take; examine your mouth, jaw, and facial muscles; and potentially take digital x-rays of your jaws, TMJs, and teeth in order to recommend TMD relief.

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