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What is TMJ/TMD?

Officially known as temporomandibular disorders, but often referred to as TMD, this condition affects the jaw, the jaw joint and the surrounding facial muscles that are responsible for chewing and movement of the jaw. This type of disorder is also sometimes known as TMJ syndrome, TMJ disorder, or TMJ dysfunction.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. These flexible joints allow the jaw to move up and down and side to side smoothly, while also allowing you to talk, yawn and chew. The muscles around the jaw have a lot of work to do, controlling the position of your jaw as well as the jaw movements themselves. Normally, these movements happen automatically, without any trouble. Sometimes, however, the muscles around the jaw or the joint itself goes out of place, gets stuck, or causes pain in the face, jaw or surrounding muscle. When this happens, it is due to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

To help you get a better idea of the typical symptoms, causes and treatment of TMD, we have put together a short guide that shows you what to expect.

TMD – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Recognising the symptoms of TMD and understanding the causes is the first step to effective treatment. Above all else, you need to speak to your dentist as early as possible.

What Are The Symptoms Of TMD

It can be tricky to diagnose this disorder because many of the symptoms can be present for other conditions as well as TMD. This is why it is so important to speak to your dentist. A proper, accurate diagnosis can be obtained with a medical and dental history, an exam and dental x-rays. Some of the more common symptoms to look for include the following:

  • Pain in the jaw, face or ear
  • Headaches, earaches and pain or pressure behind the eye
  • Clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw
  • Sore or tender jaw muscles
  • Problems chewing or biting
  • Swelling in the face
  • Changes in dental occlusion (upper and lower teeth no longer fitting together)

What Are The Causes of TMD

There is no simple or clear cause as of yet, but many dentists believe that TMD is caused by problems within the jaw muscles or joint. Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint or muscles in the head or neck, caused by a blow to the head or whiplash can also lead to this disorder, while other causes could include the following:

  • Heavy grinding or clenching of the teeth that puts pressure on the TMJ
  • Dislocated disc or soft tissue between the ball and socket of the joint
  • Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
  • Stress, which causes tightened facial and jaw muscles or clenched teeth
  • Muscle problems affecting jaw movement
  • General pain in the facial area near the jaw
  • Issues with the join itself
  • Changes in dental occlusion (upper and lower teeth no longer fitting together)

What Are The Treatments For TMD?

Correct diagnosis is essential in order to treat TMD effectively. There are a number of treatment options that will reduce symptoms, from changing the way you eat to exercises, medication and specialised treatments. Some typical treatment options could include the following:

  • Reducing muscle pain through heat or medication
  • Reducing the effects of clenching or grinding with the help of a night guard
  • Reducing muscle cramps through relaxation techniques
  • Reducing joint stiffness through transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) or low-level laser therapy
  • Reducing pain and swelling with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

If you have experienced one or more of the symptoms above, make sure that you schedule an appointment with your Durban dentist as soon as possible. Here at Gateway Dental, we aim to provide cutting-edge treatment and relief from TMD disorder and a wide range of additional dental conditions.