The temporomandibular joints or TMJ are bilateral synovial articulations that connect the temporal bone of the skull and the jawbone or mandible.
With the help of TMJ, people can move their jaws upwards, downwards, and sidewards, enabling speaking, yawning, chewing, and other movements of the jaw.
However, the jaw and muscles controlling the face can experience issues that can affect their functionalities. Called temporomandibular disorders or TMD, the term is used to characterize the pain and damage of the TMJ and the mastication muscles which are responsible for jaw motions.
What is a temporomandibular disorder?
TMD also restricts the movements of the mandible. It is not lethal, but the disorder can affect daily activities, and overall quality of life as its symptoms can be unmanageable.
The specific root of TMD is not known. According to dentists and TMD experts, TMD may be due to issues with the jaw muscles and other portions of the temporomandibular joints.
Aside from problems with the jaw muscles and TMJ, injury to the jaw, TMJ, or to the head and neck muscles which can be an immense blow, joint arthritis, or shift of the disc joint ball and socket can lead to TMD.
When you grind or clench your teeth, you can also develop TMD due to the pressure such activities give on the joint. Stress can also add to the development of TMD because facial and jaw muscles tend to tighten during stressful periods.
How do I know if I have TMD?
Serious discomfort or pain are often signs of TMD. This discomfort and pain can be impermanent or go on for many years which can affect one or both sides of the face.
Other indications of TMD consist of ache or tenderness in the jaw region and other structures especially when the mouth is open wide, clicking or cracking sound, uncomfortable bite, tired feeling in the face, swelling on the side of the face, and locked jaw.
The disorder can also cause headaches, earaches, neckaches, toothaches, shoulder pain, tinnitus, and hearing problems.
How is TMD treated?
Because its symptoms are similar to common dental problems, TMD is not easily detected and may require a physical examination to diagnose it properly and verify the probable cause.
During the examination, the jaw joints of the patient will be checked for indications of TMD, bite test, and complications with the facial muscles. To help detect the problem, a full X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, or computer tomography may also be conducted to view the jaws, TMJ, and teeth.
For further assessment, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon who specializes in the oral maxillofacial areas.
Standard remedies for TMD include nightguard, medications, and dental procedures like dental braces to fix bite problems. However, if these treatments do not work, your dentist may advise you to undergo ultrasound, trigger-point injections, radio wave therapy, laser therapy, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
Depending on the case TMD may need surgery like arthroscopy, open-joint surgery, and arthrocentesis.
What home remedies are available to help with my TMD?
You can also use home remedies to relieve you of the pain and other symptoms temporarily. You may get medicines, apply heat or cold packs, and relaxation therapy. You may also eat soft foods for the time being and avoid activities with extreme jaw movements.