Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) can be tricky to understand. This condition actually comprises of a group of ailments that affect the temporomandibular joint in the jaw, along with the surrounding muscles. The prevalence of TMD ranges from 5–12%, with women being twice as likely to have the conditionthan men.
The Temporomandibular Joint
As mentioned above, the temporomandibular joint is the region involved with TMD. This is the joint connecting the temporal bone on the side of your head to a rounded protuberance (mandibular condyle) on your jaw bone (mandible). This is a very mobile joint, which allows you to easily move your jaw up, down, forward, and side to side, which then helps you with everyday functions such as talking, yawning, swallowing, and chewing. The muscles surrounding the jaw are responsible for controlling the movement of the jaw and help to maintain its proper position.
You can feel the mandibular condyle of your temporomandibular joint by placing your fingers just in front of your ears. When you open your mouth, you can feel the bonemoving on each side of your head. The condyles slide forward as you open your mouth and then glide back into their original place once you close your mouth. This motion is assisted by the disc between the temporal bone and the condyle.
Disruption of this joint and/or associated muscles(TMD) can result in varying degrees of jaw pain. As a result it can make all activities of the jaw and mouth, including chewing and speaking painful processes.
What Causes TMD?
The exact causes of TMD remain unknown in medical research. However, many different factors can contribute to TMD including the following:
- Clenching or grinding
- Poor postural habits
- Trauma, i.e. a fall or accident involving the head and neck
- Degenerative Joint Disease (for e.g. rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis in the jaw joint)
- Myofascial Pain (pain and discomfort experienced in thejaw, shoulder, and neckmuscles)
- Disc Displacementof the TMJ
- Poor oral habits including chewing on pens or fingernails, leaning on chin with your hand
In addition to these, TMD may also occur due to stress as it can cause the jaw and facial muscles to tighten or contribute to clenching.
What Are the Symptoms of TMD?
- Jaw pain and/or tightness
- Difficulty in opening your mouth wide
- Difficulty in chewing or biting food
- Mild swelling on either or both sides of your face
- Tenderness in or near your jaw joint area, ears, throat, neck, and shoulders when you chew or speak
- Clicking or popping sounds in the joint when chewing or speaking
- Sensations of your jaws getting “locked” or “stuck” in either an open or closed-mouth position
- Pain in a tooth or teeth that is not of dental origin
- Pain in the ear or earache that is not due to an ear infection
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
Dr. Michelle Finnegan at ProMove PT Pain Specialists in Bethesda is a Certified Cervical & Temporomandibular Therapist (CCTT) who has received training in TMD treatment from the University of St. Augustine and the Craniofacial Therapy Academy. Book an appointment with her now for jaw pain treatment!