TMJ & TMD
Everybody has a temporomandibular joint, otherwise known as the TMJ. It’s the sliding hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. Some people, however, experience significant pain due to a condition known as TMD, or temporomandibular disorder, which often requires the attention of a TMJ specialist in Michigan, such as Dr. Matthew Ward, a Bay City Dentist, to resolve the issue.
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What Is TMD?
TMD is a condition where patients experience significant pain and stiffness in the temporomandibular joint. Under normal circumstances, we should be able to chew, talk and move the jaw without experiencing any sensation at all, and definitely without pain. Sometimes, however, conditions like arthritis or repetitive strain can make it difficult or even impossible to open and close the jaw normally.
Sufferers of TMD complain of jaw pain, pain in their ears, difficulty eating or chewing or locking of the jaw joint. This condition can be chronic, or ongoing, or it can be acute, coming and going over shorter periods of time. If these symptoms occur, you need to seek advice from TMJ specialist in Michigan, such as Dr. Matthew Ward.
What Causes TMD?
There are many conditions and activities that can cause or exacerbate TMD pain. Dr. Matthew Ward examines patients suffering from TMD to determine whether they have any of the following circumstances:
- Existing jaw injuries
- Arthritis in the joint
- Chronic tooth grinding
- Connective tissue diseases or inflammation
- Misalignment of the teeth, resulting in an awkward bite
- Repetitive action like chewing gum
Because there are so many potential causes of TMD, it’s important to diagnose what is causing each case, so that the correct treatments by a TMJ specialist in Michigan can be used.
How Is TMD Diagnosed?
To diagnose cases of TMD (temporomandibular disorders), Dr. Ward begins with a conversation about your oral health history. He will ask whether you've had jaw pain in the past including when you open/close your mouth or chew, if you experience popping or clicking in the jaw, if you've experienced difficulty opening your mouth, or if you have frequent headaches and/or migraines. Dr. Ward will then give you a physical examination, asking you to open and close your mouth. Lastly, if further diagnostic information is needed, he may recommend x-rays, CT (computerized tomography) scans, or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
How Is TMD Treated?
As you would imagine, a condition that has so many potential causes also has many potential treatments! If your TMD is related to misaligned teeth or tooth grinding, the solution may be purely dental. Correcting the alignment of your teeth or fitting you with a mouth guard for use at night might be all it takes to relieve the pain you have been experiencing. If the pain is due to repetitive behaviour like excessive gum chewing, then eliminating the behaviour can go a long way to solving the problem.
There are cases where the source of the pain is complex, however, or requires surgery, bone grafts and other interventions. In those cases, an oral surgeon may need to intervene and we will work together with the TMJ specialist in Michigan to solve your TMD pain issues.
The first step in treating TMD is diagnosing it and uncovering the cause, and since it involves jaw pain, you may well find that you first become aware of the problem in the dentist’s chair. We often find that patients who are experiencing unexplained jaw pain come to our office, and it’s only during an examination and after x-rays that we notice that the problem is in the jaw joint.
Once you have been diagnosed by Dr. Ward at our Bay City Dental Center, pain treatments can be prescribed while your dentist Dr. Ward and other members of the caring team work towards a permanent solution.
The good news is that TMD is very treatable once the root cause has been diagnosed, and most patients who are experiencing even severe pain can go on to make a complete recovery.
As with any pain in your mouth or jaw, however, the longer you take to seek treatment, the harder it can be to solve the problem, so whenever you have unexplained oral pain, make an appointment, and come in to see a TMJ specialist in Michigan such as Dr. Matthew Ward!
TMJ and TMD FAQ
What is the difference between TMJ and TMD?
While TMJ is a reference to a joint within your skull, TMD is a disorder that can cause a variety of problems within the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). They are often confused as being two distinct disorders, though TMD is actually the root of problems when it comes to TMJ.
What will happen if TMJ is left untreated?
If patients do not seek timely attention, TMJ problems can lead to a number of issues, including tinnitus, difficulty hearing, recurring dizziness, and more. Outside of these problems related to the ear, it can also begin to affect vision and cause jaw problems when left untreated for large periods of time.
How long does TMJ treatment take?
Treatment for TMJ can vary from one patient to another depending on what exactly is causing the pain within the TMJ. However, there are a variety of treatment methods available depending on these needs that are designed to return our patients to normalcy as soon as possible.