The acronyms TMJ and TMD are often used interchangeably to describe a disorder of the joint of the jawbones. They are abbreviations for temporomandibular joint, the hinge connecting the jaw and the temporal bones of the skull, just in front of the ears, and temporomandibular disorders, the medical condition that affects the movement of the jaw from side to side or up and down.
Temporomandibular disorder can affect men or women, most commonly occurring in patients between 20 and 40 years of age. For many years, the cause of TMD was vague; however, scientific research has shown that a primary cause of the disorder is sleep disordered breathing (SDB), a broad spectrum of breathing abnormalities that occur during sleep. Sleep disordered breathing conditions, including sleep apnea, involve airway restrictions that can lead to teeth grinding, called bruxism, and jaw shifting, two main indicators of TMD.
Other factors that may lead to TMD include:
- Injury, perhaps from a blow to the head or whiplash, which affects the muscles in the neck and head, the jaw, or the joint itself
- Misalignment of the disc located between the ball and socket of the temporomandibular joint
- Clenching or grinding teeth, which places too much pressure on the joint
- Stress, which may cause clenching of the teeth or tightening of the jaw and facial muscles
Patients with TMD may experience a number of uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Headaches and neck aches
- Earaches, hearing issues, and tinnitus
- Pain in the face, jaw, or neck when chewing, opening the mouth, or speaking
- Locking jaw
- Difficulty chewing
- Problems with bite, such as teeth not aligning, which may occur suddenly
- Popping, clicking, or grinding sounds
- Inability to open the mouth widely
At the dental practice of Mark A. Cruz, DDS, serving patients in Dana Point, Mission Viejo, Laguna Beach, and surrounding California communities, we offer a comprehensive array of advanced dental care and diagnostics, including treatment for TMD. Dr. Cruz and medical colleagues developed the Multi-Disciplinary Airway Collaborative to study and treat conditions that involve airway restrictions. During a thorough consultation, Dr. Cruz evaluates symptoms, which may be similar to symptoms of gum disease, sinus problems, or tooth decay, and designs a treatment plan. In addition to a physical assessment and examination, Dr. Cruz may recommend digital imaging for the most accurate diagnosis.
Treatment for TMD may include medications such as pain relievers or muscle relaxers, a custom-fitted mouth guard, dental reconstruction, or alignment to correct a problem with bite.
For more information about TMD, contact our friendly and professional team at Mark A. Cruz, DDS, at (949) 661-1006. Our office is located at 32241 Crown Valley Parkway in Dana Point.
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