TMJ is the abbreviation for “TemporoMandibular Joint” referring to the joint itself. This particular joint, the one that hinges your jawbone to your skull, is unique because it allows for both rotation and translation (or sliding) movements. TMD is the abbreviation for “TemporoMandibular Dysfunction”. TemporoMandibular Disorder (TMD) refers to a variety of conditions that affect TM joints, jaw muscles and facial nerves. TMD may occur when the jaw twists during opening, closing or side-motion movements.
TMD affects more than twice as many women (particularly those of childbearing age) as men and is the most common non-dental related chronic facial pain.
Stress is thought to be a factor in TMD. Even strenuous physical tasks, such as lifting a heavy object or stressful situations, can aggravate TMD by causing overuse of jaw muscles, specifically clenching or grinding teeth (also known as bruxism).
People with TMD may experience these symptoms:
- pain in or around the ear
- headaches and neck aches
- tenderness of the jaw or jaw muscles
- jaw pain or soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon
- jaw pain when chewing, biting or yawning
- difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth
- sensitive teeth when no other dental problems can be found
Researchers generally agree the most common form of TMD discomfort is a result of pain in the muscles and their connective tissue coverings. Most frequently involved are muscles that control the jaw, neck, and shoulders. Massage can relieve this pain by releasing muscle tension and stretching contracted tissue coverings. Massage also increases circulation which softens tissue coverings, cleanses tissues of irritations by products of inflammation, and improves nutrition to stressed areas. Improved circulation and relief of muscle tension can also help reduce frequency and stregnth of headaches, a common symptom of TMD.
If you think you have TMD , try these tests:
- Place an index finger in each ear. Now slowly open and close your mouth. If you hear clicking or popping, this may be an early sign of a TemporoMandibular condition.
- While watching yourself in the mirror, open your mouth and then slowly close it. If your jaw moves to the left or the right as you close, this may also indicate a TemporoMandibular condition.
You may also notice you have increasingly limited jaw movement. If so, or if you have positive results to either one of the tests, arrange an appointment with your dentist for a complete examination.