The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are small, muscular hinges that connect our jaw (mandible) to the temporal bones located just in front of the ears. These joints are used constantly throughout the day as we talk, eat, yawn, and breathe! From time to time, however, problems arise within or around this joint that can cause serious discomfort. Collectively, these problems are known as temporomandibular joint disorders or, simply, TMD.
What Are the Symptoms of TMD?
Although the TMJ is a tiny part of the body, soreness within this joint can cause extreme discomfort throughout the body. Symptoms of TMD can include:
Trouble opening and closing the mouth
Clicking or popping of the jaw
Tenderness in the jaw
Increased tension in the shoulder muscles
Rare cases, such as tinnitus
Those who suffer from TMD typically experience amplified symptoms as the day goes on and the jaw is continually used. Although the muscle soreness is usually localized to the lower face, symptoms such as headaches, earaches, and tinnitus are a distraction in every facet of daily life.
What Causes TMD?
Currently, there's no single answer as to what causes TMD, but dentists have identified many contributing factors. These include:
An uneven bite caused by ill-fitted crowns and bridges
High stress, which can lead to clenching and facial muscle tightness
Any kind of trauma, including whiplash
Arthritis of the TMJ
Can TMD Be Treated?
The good news is that your friendly Valencia dentist is fully equipped to treat TMD! Every case of TMD is unique and requires special attention. Some minor cases can be treated with plastic night guards to protect against grinding, while more severe cases may require crown replacement or surgery. Consult with your dentist to find out which treatment is right for you!