Temporomandibular Disorders

If your dentist has used the term temporomandibular disorder (TMD for short) to describe something you may have, know that it refers to a general umbrella term that encompasses problems with movement and pain in the jaw or surrounding area. To learn more about the problems, symptoms, and causes of TMD, read on.

What Causes Temporomandibular Disorders?

Each of us has two temporomandibular joints – one on each side of the jaw – that act as hinges, connecting the jawbone to the temporal bone of the skull. This joint is very important – it allows us to chew food, talk, and move our mouth around with ease. Imagine life without it!

When pain and discomfort occur in this area and the surrounding neck and face regions, pinpointing the exact cause of temporomandibular disorder isn’t always easy to identify. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to pain and restriction of movement in the jaw, such as teeth grinding, an injury to the mouth, genetics, or even arthritis.

What are the Symptoms of TMD?

Some of the most common symptoms of temporomandibular disorders include:

  • Painful sensation or discomfort in the jaw joint
  • Pain and tenderness of entire or focused are of jaw
  • Aching around or in the ear
  • Headaches
  • Surrounding face and neck pain
  • Locked/restricted jaw
  • Discomfort and trouble with chewing
  • Swelling of face
  • Toothaches
  • Clicking sound or a strange feeling when chewing

If you notice any of these recurring symptoms or general pain and dysfunction of the jaw, schedule an appointment with your doctor or dentist to have it looked at.

When to Visit a Dentist

If you or a loved one is experiencing noticeable irritation and pain in the face, neck or jaw area, it’s important to have it examined to determine the exact root of the pain. The dentist will check the joints of the jaw and listen for any unusual sounds like clicking or popping. X-rays may also be necessary to get a thorough look at the TMD, and also to make sure that there aren’t any other underlying problems occurring.

In most cases, TMD related pain and discomfort is temporary and won’t require surgery. But depending on the exact cause of your symptoms, there are numerous other treatments that can be recommended by your dentist, including dental work like crowns or bridges to replace missing teeth, anti-inflammatory medication, a night guard, or in some situations, oral surgery.

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