The Truth About Temporomandibular Disorder In 3 Minutes

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.

Here’s Why You Should Visit Your Dentist This Year

Practicing good oral hygiene routine is easier said than done.

More than 30 percent of the population of the United States do not brush their teeth at least twice a day, while 20 percent have never floss their teeth.

It is no longer surprising that more than 80 percent of Americans have had at least a single cavity by the age of 34.

Even though most dental-related problems are preventable, about 25 percent of Americans 65 years old and above have lost all their natural teeth, while 12 percent have suffered advanced gum disease.

Aside from failing the basic oral hygiene routine, Americans are also bad at keeping their dental appointments at least twice a year.


Why do I have to visit my dentist?

A bi-annual visit to the dentist is essential to maintain the health of our gums and teeth. Through a dental check-up, tooth decay, gum diseases, and even oral cancer can be detected early, and appropriate treatment can commence as soon as possible.

Aside from dental problems, dental check-ups may also detect indications of other diseases.


What happens during a dental visit?

A routine visit often involves a check-up and professional teeth cleaning.

At Hawaii Family Dental, a routine check-up starts by reviewing a patient’s health records, especially for first-time patients. Checking medical and dental history is crucial to note the patient’s conditions and needs which will be considered for the treatment plan.

Next, the mouth is assessed for dental-related problems like cavities, gum disease, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, etc. Swelling or complications in the other parts of the oral cavity, as well as the head and neck, are also checked.

If necessary, an X-ray is conducted to diagnose dental problems accurately. A dental X-ray gives the dentist and patient a clearer perspective on the condition of the oral cavity. Images from dental X-rays can reveal hidden dental structures such as a wisdom tooth and conditions a visual examination may have missed like bone loss.

When the examination ends, your teeth will undergo professional teeth cleaning to scrape off plaque and tartar buildup especially those that have collected below and above the gum line.

A tooth polisher and a light abrasive paste will be used to give your teeth a smooth and shiny finish. This procedure also prevents the rapid accumulation of plaque.


Why is Removing Plaque Necessary?

A plaque is a sticky mass of bacteria that can cause bad breath, periodontal diseases, and cavities when left unattended. When bacteria are left to proliferate inside the mouth and cavities are not treated immediately, they can result in tooth loss, infections, and tooth abscess.

Infection can then affect the head, neck, and jaw, while advanced periodontal diseases can trigger respiratory illness, diabetic flare up, coronary diseases, or strokes.


My child hates the dentist. What should I do?

It’s normal for your kid to be scared of the dentist especially during his or her first visit.

Since the thought of visiting an unfamiliar place and meeting new people are frightening for your kid,  you need not resonate his or her fear. Stay calm and keep your composure because your child will hold on to you for security and when you are apprehensive, your kid can sense it.

It is also not advisable to tell him or her, “Don’t be afraid” or “It’s alright,” because in doing so, your child will begin to think there is an imminent danger or something to be scared of in the dental office.

You can help prepare your child for his visit by briefing him or her on the procedures. You can do a small role play to ease your child about possible scenarios during the dental visit.

Aside from prepping your child, make sure the dental office has a friendly environment suitable for your child. The staff must be approachable. The dentist must be gentle and considerate. And the dental office must be equipped with everything, especially for emergency situations.