Temporomandibular joint disorder can be defined simply as any hindrance your body has developed which impedes the complex workings of the TMJ from functioning properly. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint of your jaws, located directly in front of your ear that allows your mouth to open and shut properly. The smooth gliding motion of the TMJ is accomplished by the movement of your lower jaw along its rounded upper end, known as the condyle, within the socket of your upper jaw, called the articular fossa. These two bones move easily with the assistance of a cartilage cushion in the shape of a disc between them to soften impact and stop the two from harming one another through movement.
The temporomandibular joint is the most commonly used joint in the body, as it is necessary for your mouth to open and close properly. As such, it should come as no surprise that temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is far from uncommon. In fact, over 75% of those living in the United States are currently living with TMD, commonly and incorrectly called TMJ, and many of those may not even realize they have a problem. Symptoms of TMD include headaches and earaches, as well as aching jaws and teeth. Many patients complain of teeth grinding, which can occur due to the joint working incorrectly to keep the jaws from colliding. TMD can also cause a distinct tick in the jaw, which sounds to some like a clicking or grating sound, and is often accompanied by pain when one tries to open and close their mouths.
What makes temporomandibular jaw disorder so common is that this condition can be caused in numerous ways, as the muscle system is complex and put on constant stress in our daily lives. TMD causes can be categorized in two different types: muscle generated pain, known as myogenous TMD; or jaw joint generated pain, known as arthrogenous TMD. Finding the cause to TMD is vital, as the treatment for TMD varies greatly depending on what is going wrong in your TMJ. TMD can be caused by arthritis, which can develop in some as a result from an injury healing improperly, or even from regular teeth grinding. Teeth grinding often happens without a patient realizing it, causing uncomfortable spasms in the muscles of your mouth, headaches, and stiffness in your jaw. A professional dentist can prescribe a mouth guard made specifically from molds in your teeth which can stop grinding and can work to relieve arthritis symptoms. TMD can also be caused by dislocation of the cartilage disc, causing the ball and socket to grind uncomfortably.
Those who have been suffering from TMD for a prolonged time without treatment can develop tears in this cushioning disc, making jaw movement difficult and causing severe amounts of pain. Patients with TMD should not hesitate to contact a dentist specializing in TMJ care in order to stop these damages from becoming greater in scale. Splints, mouth guards, and physical therapy can be used to realign jaws and relieve pain associated with TMD.