Do you have frequent headaches, earaches, tender jaw muscles or a dull, aching facial pain? Does your jaw lock or stray to one side when you open your mouth? These aches and pains may be related to the jaw joint, called the temporomandibular (tem-PORO-man-DIB-u-lar) joint or “TMJ,” and the muscles that work to move the joint. When the source of these problems is this joint or its muscles, they are often referred to as “TMD” for temporomandibular disorders.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
A temporomandibular disorder is a condition, not a specific disease. TMDs can have many different signs and symptoms, from mild to severe. Some patients may have symptoms but are still able to fully function in their everyday lives. TMDs appear to be more common in women. Specific signs and symptoms include:
- pain in or around the ear
- tender jaw muscles
- clicking or popping noises in the jaw
- difficulty opening or closing the mouth
- pain when yawning or chewing
- jaw joints that feel as if they are “locked,” “stuck” or they “go out”
WHAT CAUSES TMD?
Several conditions may be linked with TMD. This often makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of a particular case of TMD. These conditions include:
- jaw or head injuries
- diseases that affect the muscles or joints, such as arthritis
- tooth grinding
- anxiety and/or stress
To determine how best to treat your TMD, a complete evaluation is recommended. Your dentist may check the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving. Your complete medical history may be reviewed, so it is important to keep your dental office record up-to-date about your health even though you may not think it has anything to do with your teeth. Your dentist may take X-rays of your teeth, jaw or TMJ, and may make a model of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.