Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD or TMD), or TMJ syndrome, is an umbrella term covering acute or chronic inflammation of the temporomandibular joint, which connects the mandible (lower jaw) to the skull. The disorder and resultant dysfunction can result in significant pain and impairment. Because the disorder transcends the boundaries between several health-care disciplines — in particular, dentistry, neurology, physical therapy, and psychology — there are a variety of treatment approaches. What causes TMD? The cause of TMD is not clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck – such as from a heavy blow or whiplash – can cause TMD. Other possible causes include:
- Grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ.
- Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the TMJ.
- Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
- Stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth, thus putting excessive forces on the TMJ.
Unfortunately, we still do not have a very effective way of treating TMD. Starting with conservative approach such as taking muscle relaxants, reduce stress from modification of lifestyle, wearing dental splints are some of the options. Sometimes, surgical intervention at the TMJ may be warranted. Thorough investigations from different medical disciplines should be made before surgical intervention is to be pursued. Consultation with your dentist is a good start if you suspect that you have TMD problem.