TMD 101: What You Need to Know About Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
If you suffer from facial pain, jaw pain, migraines or even the occasional 'jaw lock’ then you may have had it suggested to you that you are suffering from TMJ. Or TMD. But the question is which one might it be and what are these conditions anyway?
MJ vs. TMD - Which is Correct?
When various people discuss the symptoms we just described above, they might use the terms TMJ and TMD interchangeably. In fact that happens quite often, but it's actually a mistake, as they are two different things.
TMJ is the abbreviation for temporomandibular joint, the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull and it's located right in front of your ear. TMD on the other hand, stands for temporomandibular joint disorder, a blanket term for the problems with the joint a person might develop. So TMD is the correct term, but if you are suffering then the chances are that you really don't care too much about all of this, you just want to know why you are in pain and how to make it stop!
TMD Causes and Symptoms
TMD symptoms vary from person to person, as does their severity. Some of them - facial pain, pain when 'opening up wide', a 'tired' feeling in your face and especially a jaw that 'locks - are all symptoms that can be fairly easily recognised as TMD. Others -like toothaches, headaches, facial swelling, dizziness and hearing problems - can have a number of other causes as well, so are not immediately connected to TMD .
If you are diagnosed with TMD, just what might have caused it? Traumatic injury can do it, as can a habit of grinding your teeth. In some, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may be at work and stress can even be a trigger for TMD as those who are 'stressed out' do develop a tendency to over-tighten their facial and jaw muscles and clench their teeth, putting undue pressure on the temporomandibular joint.
The obvious first step in the successful treatment of TMD for anyone is a proper diagnosis. While you may have diagnosed yourself while consulting with Dr. Google, only a dentist familiar with TMD can tell you for sure.
Once a diagnosis is made, many experts prefer to follow a conservative course of treatment initially. This is because after a patient has been educated about some simple habit and lifestyle changes - things like avoiding very hard foods, relieving pain with icepacks, changing sleeping habits etc. - the condition improves on its own. However, for those not so lucky other treatments, including medications, splints, acupuncture and even surgery, are indicated.
The Locked Jaw Emergency
For most people who suffer from TMD is painful, it’s annoying and can be rather limiting, but they can, for the most part, live with the problem as their treatments begin to take effect. However, if their TMD leads to a locked jaw it's a bit of a different story. It's very scary when you just can't open your mouth and it's hugely uncomfortable - and often painful - too. In this situation waiting until Monday, or even until the morning, to get help really isn't an option. This is one of those times when it's best to seek immediate care from an emergency dentist who will be able to start working on 'unlocking' that troublesome jaw right away.
The #EmergencyDentist Says:
Whether you have already been diagnosed with TMD or you just suspect that it may be causing your symptoms, a locked jaw is a problem that needs to be addressed right away, even if a less than helpful pal thinks it's rather funny (or cool) that you suddenly can't even utter a word!