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Millions of people have TMD and suffer from its painful or uncomfortable symptoms without knowing what causes those symptoms. How can this be addressed? Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) is an unbalanced bite. Persistent pain in the jaw and face can have a negative effect on many aspects of your life, and TMD symptoms can affect many areas of your body. They may not at first seem to be connected with each other or with your bite.
TMJ vs. TMD
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw to the rest of the skull, including the upper jaw. It functions like a ball-and-socket mechanism, giving your mouth and jaw the range of motion to open, close, and move side to side when performing actions like:
TMD, meanwhile, stands for temporomandibular disorder. This is the general name for issues affecting the health and function of the joint and connected muscles in the face. The exact cause of TMD is unknown, but possible risk factors include:
- Grinding or clenching the teeth
- Injury or repetitive stress to the side of the mouth, which could dislocate the joint
- Medical conditions that inflame joints, such as arthritis
Though the TMJ is a structure in the body and TMD is a disorder affecting the joint, you might hear some neuromuscular dentists use the term interchangeably.
What is TMD?
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)occurs when you have an unbalanced or misaligned bite. When your jaw joints are not at rest, they can put strain on the surrounding nerves, tendons, and tissues in your face and neck, causing painful TMD symptoms.
The Puzzle of TMD
Many people who suffer from TMD may become so used to its discomfort that they don’t think to seek any treatment. If they suffer chronic TMD headaches, they may mistake them for migraines and seek pain relief from a physician.
It is a good idea to speak to your physician and make sure than your symptoms do not have a medical cause. Then, contact Dr. Marshall to see if they might have a dental cause.
The muscles, nerves, tendons and bones of your face and mouth are designed to work together for effective biting and chewing, and for a comfortable resting position when not in action. The lower jaw pivots in a ball-and-socket joint just in front of each ear.
The jaw joints are delicate in that they can be rather easily thrown out of alignment. If this happens, the jaw muscles must strain to hold even a resting bite position, leading to chronic discomfort and other symptoms.
When to Seek Treatment for TMJ Disorder
If you regularly experience the following symptoms, you might be suffering from dysfunction of the TMJ:
- Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw
- Migraine headaches
- Pain in the jaw, face, neck, shoulders, or upper back
- Limited mobility of the mouth
An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from some form of TMJ disorder. To alleviate the discomfort that can accompany TMD, it’s important to visit a neuromuscular dentist who can assess the health and function of your jaw and recommend treatment options.
After a thorough dental examination, Dr. Marshall will use specialized technology to measure and record:
- Jaw muscle activity
- Jaw movements
- Jaw joint sounds
She may use a TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) to administer low level stimulus to the jaw muscles in order to relax them. It may be the first time in many years that your jaw muscles have assumed their correct, relaxed position, and the pain relief can be tremendous. When Dr. Marshall determines your relaxed jaw position, your TMD treatment will focus on making that position permanent.
Relief From TMD Symptoms
If you are suffering from symptoms of TMJ/TMD, your primary doctor will not be able to directly treat the problem to bring your permanent relief; the best they can do is provide you with pain medication to dull the symptoms. Our experienced dentist Dr. Lindsey Marshall provides targeted and customized TMD treatment through a combination of cosmetic procedures that restores comfort, realigns your jaw, and helps prevent future problems.
Millions of Americans suffer from TMD, often without knowing it. TMD may start subtly or have no symptoms at all. This makes seeing a dentist who has trained in neuromuscular dentistry an important part of your dental health routine. Even if your TMD is not currently painful, Dr. Marshall can detect problems with your bite’s alignment during your regularly scheduled dental exams. When symptoms of TMD are treated early, you can avoid more serious long-term problems and tooth damage.