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The Difference Between TMD And TMJ

tmj-tmdMedical terms can be confusing for consumers, and even sometimes for some doctors and dentists. One of the best examples is the confusion between TMJ and TMD. Many people mistakenly say they suffer from TMJ. What they really mean is that they suffer from TMD, which is an acronym for temporomandibular disorder. TMD is a medical condition affecting the temporomandibular joint where the jaw meets the side of your head. The bones, muscles, and cartilage that make up the temporomandibular joint — TMJ for short — allow you to move your jaw to chew, speak and yawn. You have two TMJs, one on each side of your head, just in front of each ear. You can feel your TMJs function by placing a finger in front of each ear then opening and closing your jaw. When your jaw joints are working well, muscles move your lower jaw smoothly up and down, and even side to side. A small cartilage disc in the joint itself, located just in front of your ear, prevents your jawbone from grinding against the bones of your skull. Problems with the bones, muscles or discs of the temporomandibular joint may cause pain and other symptoms associated with TMD. Injury to the TMJ may increase the risk for symptoms of TMD, as can arthritis or other illnesses that cause joint inflammation or dysfunction. Misaligned teeth may also cause discomfort in the temporomandibular joint. In many cases, doctors can never positively identify the source of temporomandibular disorders. Scientists do not know how many people suffer from TMD, but the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research suggests as many as 10 million Americans may struggle with symptoms of TMD.

TMD Causes Symptoms in Your TMJ

Temporomandibular disorders cause symptoms affecting the temporomandibular joint. Symptoms may worsen and ease over time. TMD causes a variety of symptoms that can appear when you chew, speak or yawn, including:

  • Pain in the chewing muscles or near the ear
  • Jaw muscle stiffness
  • Limited jaw mobility or locked jaw
  • Painful clicking, popping or grinding when you open or close your mouth
  • Changes in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together

Pain occurs when the cartilage slides out of place or rubs against nearby nerves as you move your jaw. Popping and clicking can happen when cartilage snaps back into place. Spasms or malfunctions in the muscles serving the temporomandibular joint can cause pain and tenderness in the TMJ.

Natural Horizons Wellness Centers Provide Safe and Effective Treatment for TMD

Fortunately, Natural Horizons provides safe and effective treatment for TMD that begins with a comprehensive evaluation of the temporomandibular joint, including a physical assessment of the affected area and careful notation of your medical and dental history. Your healthcare professional at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers may order X-rays and other imaging tests to detect any underlying problems that may be causing symptoms of TMD. Your healthcare providers at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers can then create an individualized treatment plan based on your specific needs. Treatment usually begins with conservative therapies, such as dietary changes, stretching exercises for jaw muscles, ice and non-prescription pain relievers. Your practitioner may recommend painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants. Stabilization splints and other medical devices may help. Surgery may be possible when all other options fail. Make an appointment with Natural Horizons Wellness Centers today for safe and effective treatment for TMD tomorrow.  

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