Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) include a number of conditions that affect the temporomandibular or TM joints—the “hinges” that join upper and lower jaws. These joints work together with a complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones to create not only chewing motions, but also the numerous subtle different movements needed for creating speech. TMD could be the result of mechanical problems with, or damage to, the joints themselves, or problems with the associated muscles and facial nerves. TMD usually creates pain, and may causes the jaw to twist when opening and closing or have excessive side-to-side movement.
It is estimated that TMD affects more than 10 million Americans, and is twice as common among women as men. Symptoms of TMD may include head and neck aches, tenderness in the jaw area, pain around the ear, pain when yawning or chewing, difficulty opening the mouth, and clicking or popping noises when the jaw is moved. Pain and soreness may be more pronounced in the morning and late in the day, and it may cause the teeth to be overly sensitive.
TMD can be the result of a jaw injury or dislocation, an improper bite pattern of the teeth, or arthritis. Stress is thought to be a factor in the development of TMD, as it can cause excessive teeth clinching or grinding, a condition known as bruxism. Strenuous physical activity such as sports or heavy lifting can aggravate TMD, as we often clinch our teeth during exertion, and conditions such as a toothache or sinus problems can create similar symptoms.
Proper assessment and diagnosis are an important first step in any TMD treatment program. Because the exact causes and symptoms of TMD are not always evident, and may result from a number of cause, diagnosing the disorder can be challenging. Currently there is no single widely-accepted standard forTMD conditions, but specialists such as Dr. Lalji are trained to identify potential causes based on an examination of your jaw and face, along with your description of symptoms and pain. In some cases x-rays may be taken to assess bite patterns and jaw mechanics.
Depending on the cause of TMD. Dr. Lalji may recommend something as simple as relaxation techniques and specific exercises that reduce jaw-clenching stressors. TMD symptoms may also be alleviated or reduced with the application of moist heat, ultrasound therapy, or the use of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or ibuprofen. In some cases, TMD will resolve itself over time through the use of these non-invasive techniques. In more complex or persistent cases, Dr. Lalji may prescribe a night guard (oral splint), suggest orthodontic adjustments or provide a referral to a physical therapist who specializes in TMD.