Living With TMD: What It Is & How To Treat It

Ease the Pain of Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction with These Treatment Options


According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, almost 10 million Americans today are living with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. Also known as temporomandibular disorders (TMDs), these conditions can affect the jaw and cause discomfort and pain. In most cases, the symptoms are not persistent and will go away on their own. For others, however, it may require extensive treatment to help manage the irritation.

What is the Temporomandibular Joint?

The temporomandibular joint is made up of three parts, a ball-and-socket joint, known medically as the condyle and glenoid fossa, and a small fibrous disc that sits between them. Your TMJ is located on either side of your mouth, in between the top and bottom jaw. You can even feel the TMJ when your mouth moves by placing a finger next to each ear.

The discs are responsible for providing a cushion for the bones and muscles in the joint to provide smooth movements. When the jaw or the joints are not properly situated, the muscles can become irritated, causing swelling and discomfort that extend throughout the face. The temporomandibular joints are responsible for facilitating eating, speaking, and laughing, which can all be negatively affected if a patient is suffering from a TMD.

tmj illustration

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Symptoms and Treatment of TMDs

TMJ dysfunction is not a specific condition, but rather a general term for a number of disorders. Dentists cannot yet understand the causes of the condition, but some possible causes may include:

  • Arthritis
  • Misaligned bite, also known as malocclusion
  • Bruxism, or tooth grinding
  • Dislocation of TMJs
  • Cartilage degeneration
  • Injury, genetic, or similar trauma

Unfortunately, because the direct causes are unknown, it is difficult to treat the underlying problem. Instead, a number of dentists and specialists prefer to offer pain-relieving solutions and management therapy. If you experience any of the symptoms of a TMD, it is important to contact your dentist to do a thorough consultation. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Tenderness and/or swelling of the jaw or surrounding muscles
  • Pain in the jaw when chewing, talking, or opening and closing the mouth
  • Clicking or popping noises when using the jaw muscles
  • Headaches, neck pain, pain around the ear or around the jaw
  • Tooth sensitivity that is not caused by any underlying dental or health issues

In order to properly diagnose you with a temporomandibular joint disorder, your dentist will examine your jaw to help rule out any other potential oral conditions. The treatment options will vary based on each patient’s unique needs. For patients who require more intricate care, your dentist may refer you to an oral maxillofacial surgeon. In other patients, stress-relieving symptoms may be beneficial for reducing symptoms that cause TMJ pain. Anti-inflammatory medications, bite guards, or a simple pack of ice may work for others.

Managing and Maintaining TMJ Disorder

A brilliant smile is a beautiful accessory, but it is difficult to maintain if you are in pain. Residents of North Palm Beach who may symptoms of TMJ disorders can contact Dr. Acosta’s office today to learn more about possible treatment options. Together with his expert team, they are dedicated to helping patients maintain optimum oral health. We offer patients a number of preventative and restorative dental solutions to keep your smile happy and healthy. Contact us at 561-622-0301 to schedule your Free Smile Assessment today.

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