Temporomandibular joint disorders (also referred to as TMD or TMJ disorders) can be debilitating and seriously harm a person’s quality of life. Plus, TMD is more common than you might realize. About 10 million Americans are affected by temporomandibular joint disorders, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Don’t Ignore These 8 Signs and Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
1. Clicking and Popping Sounds
Clicking sounds or temporomandibular joints that “pop” or “crack” frequently can all be indications of misaligned jawbones and temporomandibular joint disorder. Additionally, experiencing a grinding sensation in your temporomandibular joints can also indicate TMD.
2. Frequent Headaches and/or Migraines
TMD places stress on the temporomandibular joints and the muscles that surround them. As a result, individuals who suffer from TMD usually also experience frequent headaches. These can arise in both the form of tension headaches and/or migraine headaches. TMD sufferers can experience migraines as a symptom. Sometimes, however, TMD-related headaches are misdiagnosed as migraines because they tend to feel like they have pain concentrated behind a person’s eyes (which is a common sign of migraine headaches).
The temporomandibular joints are located just above the ears. Individuals who suffer from TMD typically have quite a bit of inflammation (swelling) in this joint, and this swelling can spread to the ear, causing earache pain that feels similar to that of an ear infection. If you suffer from frequent earaches or pain around the ear canal without any signs of infection, this could be a sign that you have a temporomandibular joint disorder.
The inflammation from TMD can also result in feelings of fullness in the ears and even some dizziness.
4. Jaw Pain
The inflamed joints associated with TMD can cause pain in and around the jawbone that starts at the joint or in the temples and extends downward through the upper and lower jawbones and teeth. Some patients do not report jaw pain but, rather, report a feeling of discomfort in the same area.
Individuals with a temporomandibular joint disorder commonly experience a condition called lockjaw or locked jaw, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. During an episode of lockjaw, a patient cannot move their jawbones because the joints become locked or stuck in either an open or closed position.
6. Dental Damage
Patients with TMD typically suffer from bruxism and/or sleep bruxism (clenching the jaw and grinding the teeth and/or doing so while asleep). As a result, they commonly experience excessive damage to their teeth. If you have teeth that show signs of excessive wear or are chipped, cracked, or broken with no explanation, then you might be grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw while you sleep. This is a sign of TMD and should be addressed by a dental professional.
7. Neck and Shoulder Pain
While TMD commonly causes local issues in the jaw joints, it can also result in more widespread symptoms. For example, TMD patients frequently suffer from considerable muscle tension which results in pain that spreads and radiates to the neck and shoulders. Patients can also experience tenderness, tingling, and numbness in these areas.
8. Facial Pain
Additionally, TMD sufferers commonly experience facial pain that can feel like tenderness, tingling, burning, sensitivity, and numbness in the face.
What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
TMD refers to disorders of the temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are the two sliding hinge joints that are located on each side of the face and connect the lower jawbone to a person’s skull. These joints are responsible for the actions that allow a person to open and close their mouths and move their jawbones in all directions.
There is no one, specific disorder that is characterized as TMD. There are actually several issues that are classified as temporomandibular joint disorders. Most of these issues are related to the health, development, structure, and alignment of a person’s maxillofacial structures, most particularly the temporomandibular joints.
What Causes Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
There are several possible underlying causes of TMJ disorder, including:
- Injury to the temporomandibular joint
- Injury or trauma to the face
- Structural or development issues with the jaw or temporomandibular joint
- Congenital birth defects
- Bruxism (teeth grinding and jaw clenching)
- Temporomandibular joint erosion
- Poor posture
- Orthodontic treatment
Often, multiple factors contribute to a patient’s TMD, and this can make diagnosis and treatment fairly challenging.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder in Loveland, Colorado
Since there are so many possible causes of TMD, there are several variables that can make diagnosing and treating TMD in a patient fairly challenging because, in order for treatment to be effective, the treatment must address the underlying cause or causes of the patient’s symptoms.
The process of diagnosis typically involves a combination of talking with a patient about their symptoms in addition to examining their teeth, jawbones, occlusion (bite), and jaw alignment. Additionally, we’ll likely take digital impressions of a patient’s teeth and also diagnostic images using digital x-rays and/or a CBCT scan. This detailed diagnostic process enables our prosthodontist to thoroughly evaluate a patient’s maxillofacial structures in order to determine the exact cause of the patient’s TMD symptoms while also determining the treatment that will be most appropriate and effective.
There are several treatments for TMD, and the one (or combination of treatments) that’s right for each patient depends greatly on the cause of the TMD. While some patients might require oral surgery or braces, other patients’ TMD can be adequately addressed with treatment as simple as a mouthguard (oral splint) that is worn at night.
If you are currently suffering from the signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders, we strongly encourage you to seek diagnosis and treatment with an experienced professional like Dr. Andrew Bock at Northern Colorado Implant and Prosthetic Dentistry. Dr. Bock can thoroughly evaluate your symptoms and maxillofacial anatomy to provide you with TMD treatment and relief from your symptoms. To learn more about TMD treatment, we welcome you to schedule an appointment with our prosthodontist in Loveland today.