TMD (Temporomandibular Disease): Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis
The temporomandibular joint is a hinge joint that links the jaw to the skull's temporal bones located in front of each ear. It facilitates the movement of the jaw up, down, and from one side to the other, thus facilitating talking, yawning and chewing.
TMD or temporomandibular disease or disorders is the collective term given to problems with the bones and muscles that form this joint and help in its function.
Causes of TMD
It is not clear what causes this condition. However, dentists believe that issues with jaw muscles or with parts of the temporomandibular joint itself are responsible for causing TMD. For instance, injury to the jaw, joint, or muscles of the neck and head such as whiplash or a heavy blow can trigger TMD.
The following are additional causes:
- Grinding or gritting the teeth, that results in the joint being pressured excessively
- The soft pad or disc moving between the joint's ball and socket
- Stress which can lead to the tightening of facial as well as jaw muscles, or gritting of teeth
- The existence of arthritis in the joint (especially in elderly people)
Symptoms of TMD
Mostly, this disease causes severe pain as well as discomfort. It can affect either side or both sides of the face. Also, it could be momentary or could last for several years. TMD is most prevalent among individuals aged between 20 and 40 years, with the majority of victims being women.
The following are some of the common symptoms:
- Aching or tenderness in the jaw joint area, face, neck and shoulders, plus in and around the ear when talking, chewing, or opening the mouth wide
- Difficulties when trying to open the mouth wide
- Jaws getting locked or stuck in the open/closed mouth position
- Problems with chewing or having an abrupt, uneasy bite as if the teeth are not fitting together correctly
- Clicking, cracking noises in the jaw joint while opening or closing the mouth, or chewing (this may be painful or not painful)
- Swelling on the side of the face
Toothaches, headaches, aching in the neck, upper shoulder pain, earaches, hearing difficulties, dizziness, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) may also be experienced.
How TMD Is Diagnosed
There are several other disorders that cause the same symptoms, for example sinus problems, arthritis, tooth decay, or gum disease. The orthodontist will therefore inquire about a patient's health history and do a physical exam in order to find out what is causing the symptoms.
This will include checking the jaw joints for pain or swellings, listening for clicking, popping, or grating sounds that accompany any movement. The orthodontist will also ensure that the jaw works properly, without locking when opening and closing the mouth.He will test he patient's bite to see if there are any problems with the facial muscles.
Full face X-rays may be taken to view the patient's jaws, temporomandibular joints, as well as teeth in order to rule out other problems.