Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

What is the Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJD or shortly TMD is an acute or chronic inflammation of the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint). In the first article we talked about the temporomandibular joint, its anatomy and structure. As we said the Temporomandibular Joints are complex structures that include tendons, bones and muscles. Every one of these components helps the jaw joint functioning.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

The Temporomandibular Joint Disorders can be caused by different conditions like:

  • Bruxism- grinding or clenching your teeth puts pressure on the muscles and other structures surrounding the jaw causing tmj problems like jaw pain, earache, headache, mastication problems etc. Most of the people don’t even notice this behavior, so they don’t even take treatment causing permanent damage to teeth and jaw.
  • Bad habits- like biting fingernails, chewing gum all day. Also keeping hard objects in your mouth cause trauma and modification of your teeth and muscle fatigue causing later on Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.
  • Trauma- due to accidents or fights they can cause inflammation or fractures to the TMJs causing temporary or permanent TMJ disorders.
  • Stress- by itself it doesn’t cause any damage to the TMJs. But stress causes people to unconsciously grind their teeth or clench them, biting fingernails etc. All these kind of activity puts a lot of pressure on the TMJs and the surrounding tissues.
  • Osteoarthritis- or other degenerative joint disease like fibrous or bony ankylosis, development abnormality, pathological lesions of the temporomandibular joint.
  • Malocclusion- it can be a dental problem due to dental misalignment, tooth mobility or tooth loss, incongruous restorations or crowns but it can also be a bone problem due to genetics, pathologies, or bad habits. Independently on the cause of the malocclusion it can generate tmj disorders.
  • Neoplastic growth can also be a cause of tmj disorder. Disorders of the jaw joint vary widely but they are mostly classified in 3 categories. But one person might have one or more of these conditions in the same time.
  • Myofascial pain- involves discomfort or pain of the masticator muscles. It is the most common type of jaw joint disorder and is easier to treat.
  • Arthritis- includes all the degenerative/inflammatory joint disorders.
  • Internal disequilibrium of the jaw joint due to dislocated jaw, injury of the condyle or displaced disk.

Often the pain associated with tmj disorders is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms might be similar to other conditions like: toothache, headache, facial neuralgias, sinus or ear infection. So your health care provider should take a detailed dental and medical history, examine problematic areas and do several tests. There are a lot of tests that can determine if you have or not TMD. Some of them are:

  • X-rays like panoramic x-rays that allow your doctor to see the entire jaws and teeth and make sure what is causing TMD.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) makes visible the soft tissue, so your doctor can determine if the disk is in the correct position during rest or during movement of the jaws.
  • CT (computer tomography) gives detail about the bony component of TMJs. After diagnosing the temporomandibular joint disorder, depending on the type your doctor will decide what kind of treatment is suitable for you. The treatment may include Self-Care practices, pain medication, stress management, occlusal therapy, surgery etc.

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