What is TMD? A Bingham Farms Dentist Explains

Most people think of dentists as being primarily responsible for working with the teeth and gums, but Jamestowne South Dental Cracchiolo and the staff at Perfecting Your Smile offer preventive dental care in Bingham Farms, which means we have solutions for people suffering from certain types of jaw pain. Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) can sound like a mouthful, but the pain that arises from these joints can be bothersome if left untreated. Thankfully, your dentist can provide the health and relief that you need.

What are Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ)?

Since TMJ is a more famous set of initials than TMD, we’ll start with the temporomandibular joints themselves. These joints connect your lower jaw to your skull, and they rotate right in front of each ear. On any given day, a person will move their mandible up and down, side to side, or back and forth countless times, and when they’re properly aligned, these joints work like a dream.

When they are not aligned, however, they can make it painful to speak, chew, or yawn. When this happens, Jamestowne South Dental may step in and diagnose patients with TMD.

What’s the Difference Between TMD and TMJ?

Put simply, TMJ is the joint itself, while TMD is a disorder of the joint, as well as the muscles and nerves that work in conjunction with that joint to help your jaw move. Very often, dentists will use “TMJ” to describe both the joint and the disorder, so in that regard, dentists talking about TMD, and those talking about TMJ could technically be discussing the same thing—problems with the alignment of the joint itself.

TMD is typically defined by one of the following:

  • Chronic facial pain around the TMJ and muscles that control jaw, neck, and shoulder functions.
  • Problems with the joint itself, meaning the jaw dislocates or slips.
  • Degenerative joint disease such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint.

What Causes TMD?

There is not one thing that consistently causes the above problems, but we have found certain culprits typically are at the center of an official diagnosis. These include:

  • Excessive strain on the joints and nearby muscles, including but not limited to bruxism, the habitual, involuntary clenching, or grinding of teeth.
  • Trauma to the head, neck, or jaw.
  • Underlying conditions ranging from arthritis to fibromyalgia to irritable bowel syndrome.

The bottom line is that this can be painful and impact one’s quality of life, and the first step toward finding relief is getting an official diagnosis.

How Jamestowne South Dental Treats TMD

The best way to treat TMD is to use some combination of rest, heating pads, painkillers, muscle relaxants, jaw exercises, and a soft-food diet. However, in some cases, patients may need a dental implement called a “bite guard” that keeps them from clenching their jaw or grinding their teeth. Used while sleeping, this can make a significant improvement in symptoms, allowing your TMJ to heal and ultimately relieve pain. If you think you may be suffering from TMD, please make an appointment with Jamestowne South Dental at your earliest convenience. We don’t just offer standard cleanings and cosmetic dental options for Bingham Farms patients. We also can diagnose and treat TMD, and if you’re suffering from this, we’d love to give you the help you need.