TMD, TMJ, and Orthodontics

What do TMD and TMJ mean?

These are both acronyms that refer to the same condition, though one is more specific than the other. The first one, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is the correct term that is used in the industry of orthodontics. It means that you have a disorder in this joint, which connects the temporal bone to your jaw.
The other term, temporary mandibular joint (TMJ) is referring to the same thing but is incorrect since it’s just referring to the join itself and not the condition impacting it! While some experts will use TMJ, most use TMD because it’s more professional.

What does it mean to have a TMD?

It basically means that you are having a problem moving your jaw up and down and it should be treated. This could be caused from arthritis in the joint itself over time. It could also be caused by stress which causes many to grind their teeth together.
TMD can also be caused by something more traumatic, such as a direct injury to your jaw, or even something like whiplash.

How is a TMD diagnosed?

Firstly, it’s ruled out from other conditions that can be causing a problem. To do this, experts may do an MRI or CT to see if the TMJ disc is in its proper position while your jaw is moving. This will help either note it as the problem or rule it out! This usually involves a referral to an oral surgeon for diagnostics. Usually, I start with my patients by having them keep a diet journal and eliminating all chewy or crunchy foods and chewing gum from their diets for a few weeks first. If the discomfort is still severe, we may refer them to a specialist. Otherwise, masseter Botox can also be helpful.

What are symptoms of a TMD?
The cause of the TMD often can note how weak or severe the symptoms are. Common symptoms include:

● Pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders, or ear (when moving your jaw)
● Your jaw gets locked open or shut sometimes
● Clicking or popping when moving jaw
● Earaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears

What treatment is available for living with a TMD?

Most of treatment is going to be about adapting your habits to help you prevent further damage to this joint. However, many will blend this with orthodontic treatment as well. The most popular options include:

● A splint: This is a clear guard that fits over your teeth. It will help align your bite properly and can reduce the pressure that is put on when you grind your teeth. This is worn all the time except for brushing your teeth and eating.

● A nightguard: This has extra thickness in it that will give your jaw more comfort when worn and can help ease pain and other symptoms. This is worn only at night, or during particularly bad flare-ups.

● Repositioning treatment: Through either dental work, or more advanced orthodontic work, you may need to receive help and treatment for a bite problem that is causing or exacerbating the problem.

In a nutshell, I don’t recommend treating patients with TMD orthodontically unless the pain has been eliminated first.

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