Temporomandibular disorders (TMD)
TMD’s are a group of disorders that affect the temporomandibular joint and the masticatory muscles. The symptoms that are characteristic of the disorders are a pain in the area of the joint, muscle pain, jaw pain, headache, earache, clicking sounds while moving the jaw, pain while chewing, difficulty in opening and closing the mouth, buzzing in the ears and more. In some cases, the symptoms are very subtle, while in others can be very severe and impair the normal way of life.
The causes of TMD can be various and include traumatic injuries to the jaw and joint, bruxism, stress and anxiety, arthritis of the joint, malocclusions, diseases such as fibromyalgia and more. The treatment depends on the cause and it might include lifestyle changes or a visit to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
The temporomandibular joint is the most complex joint on the head and neck area. Thanks to its complexity, there are a number of conditions that can affect it. This joint connects the lower jaw to the skull. It is surrounded by numerous muscles that help with the movements.
In most cases, it is hard to find the right reason that causes the condition. Temporomandibular disorders can affect different parts of the joint. The most common cause is arthritis. There are many types of arthritis, so with the exams, the doctor will be able to determine the exact one. Another cause is grinding. Patients who grind their teeth put a lot of pressure to the joint, and that can lead to TMJ. Also, age and genetics do have their role in the appearance of these conditions. Sometimes it’s only one factor responsible for TMD, but in some cases, it is a complex of several causes. Jaw injuries can cause direct damage to the temporomandibular joint and lead to further problems. Degenerative tissue diseases can also occur in the joint.
There are numerous symptoms connected to TMJs. The patient often tries to forget about them in the beginning when they are mild, but once they start becoming stronger, it is impossible not to visit a doctor. The condition usually starts with pain in the joint area and in the jaw. With time this pain is constant and very strong. The jaws and surrounding area of the joint can be very tender. The pain will spread towards the ear. In time patients will start noticing clicking sounds when they open and close the mouth. Sometimes, the jaw can even get stuck in a certain position. All of the movements of the jaw will be painful. The opening and closing are limited and painful. Headaches, sounds in the ears, pain that radiates towards the neck, shoulder pain can also appear.
In some cases, the symptoms are just temporary and will go away. But if they don’t there is the need of further treatment. Doctors will prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatory pills. Patients are advised to eat soft or liquid food. They can place first cold than hot towels to ease the symptoms. If there is a certain cause that led to the TMJ, it should be diagnosed and treated. Mouthguards are often very helpful. All of the non-surgical measures can be unsuccessful for some patients, so they might need surgical assistance.