A temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located on each side of your head and connects your lower jawbone to the temporal bone on the side of your skull. It is part of a complex structure made up of bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. Attached to your TMJ are the facial muscles that allow you to open and close your mouth, and therefore, the movement of your jawbone itself is controlled by this joint, which can move from side to side, as well as forward and backward. Weissman Dental is familiar with the causes and symptoms of TMD, as well as the various ways to treat these disorders.
Disorders of the TMJ
Musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorders involving the temporomandibular joint and surrounding tissues are commonly referred to as TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction). These conditions ultimately lead to the misalignment and malfunction of the system of muscles, bones, discs, and ligaments that form the TMJ. Manifestations of TMD can include difficulties with basic functions like eating and speaking.
Types of TMD
TMD conditions can be categorized into three main groups: facial muscle imbalance, internal derangement of the TMJ, and arthritis. Any of them can lead to discomfort.
Facial Muscle Imbalance
Facial muscle imbalance is characterized by myofascial (muscle) pain caused by imbalance in the facial muscles due to improper chewing habits or facial expression habits. This discomfort and pain in the muscles controlling the jaw are initially felt on the loose side and will slowly progress to the joint itself.
Internal Derangement of the TMJ
Another form of TMD involves the derangement, or disturbance of the regular arrangement, of the TMJ system. This derangement can result from jaw dislocation, injury to the rounded structures of the lower jaw (condyles), or disc displacement. Manifestation of these conditions can involve a locked jaw, or the inability to open your mouth, especially upon awakening in the morning.
Arthritis affects the TMJ the same way it affects other joints in your body. Specifically, osteoarthritis can cause degeneration of the TMJ as a result of cartilage loss. In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflammation of the TMJ, which can result in deformation in severe cases.
Causes of TMD
There are multiple reasons that a patient may experience symptoms of TMD. Poor positioning of your upper and lower teeth (malocclusion) is one of the primary causes. TMD can also be triggered by injury or trauma to the TMJ and adjoining muscles. Patients with pre-existing arthritic conditions are at a greater risk of TMD because of gradual degeneration of the joint. In addition, certain structural birth defects can make someone more likely to develop TMJ disorders. In rare cases, having dental work that requires that your jaw be opened very widely can trigger temporary pain in the TMJ. Other causes of TMD include chronic clenching of the jaw, teeth grinding, wearing ill-fitting dentures, malnutrition, and even poor body posture.
Medical Treatment for TMD
In most cases, proper self-care and good lifestyle habits are enough to resolve mild to moderate TMD symptoms. If you are experiencing any facial or oral pain around your TMJ, it’s important to call Weissman Dental at (503) 274-2222 as soon as possible to schedule a thorough exam.