The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw to the skull by means of the temporal bones, which are located in front of the ears. It’s the joint that acts like a hinge when the jaw opens and closes, moves up and down, or moves side to side as you are chewing, talking, and yawning. When a patient has issues with the jaw and the related facial muscles that go with it, they are said to have a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Some people erroneously refer to these problems as TMJ, though, because of the name of the joint.
There are many theories about what causes TMD, but there is no definitive answer to this question. Most dentists think that the issues are related to the jaw muscles or to some defective parts of the temporomandibular joint itself. Other reasons a patient may develop TMD include:
Most people have no difficulty realizing that they have TMD because of the terrible pain and discomfort that usually accompanies it. This pain can last for a short time or for years at a time. Typically, TMD affects people between the ages of 20 and 40, and more women than men experience it. TMD can occur in just one side of the face, or on both sides.
Many of our patients complain of the following symptoms associated with TMD:
For some patients, TMD symptoms eventually subside without requiring treatment. But for those whose symptoms continue, your doctor may suggest one or more of the following treatment options:
Medications – these are often combined with other nonsurgical treatments to provide pain relief for TMD sufferers. There are several varieties of medications that are used for this purpose, such as:
Medical procedures – these are usually the last resort, but if the above strategies do not help, your doctor may recommend one of the following: