TMD: Causes and Symptoms

TMD - single male touching his jaw thoughtfully

TMD: Causes and Symptoms

Temporomandibular joint disorders, more commonly known as TMDs or TMJ disorders, affect the joints and tendons that connect the lower jaw to the skull. These conditions can be excruciating and draining, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms and get treatment as soon as possible. Prescott Dentistry’s holistic approach to dentistry allows our professional team to identify the causes of TMD and recommend treatment for this painful disorder.

What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)?

As previously mentioned, TMD affects the joints of the jaw and the surrounding muscles and nerves. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the mandible (lower jaw) to the skull, acting like a sliding mechanism that allows the jaw to open and close.

Because it enables us to eat and speak in everyday life, TMJ disorders can undermine our normal daily functions. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research classifies TMDs into one of three classes based on the affected body part.

  1. Disc Disorders—Conditions that directly affect the joints and the connected bones
  2. Muscular Disorders—Conditions that affect the masticatory muscles used for chewing
  3. TMD-Induced Headaches—Conditions that produce chronic headaches

Of course, these are rather broad categories, and each individual’s TMD symptoms can involve multiple types. Taking a holistic approach to this condition is essential, as the associated symptoms may appear unrelated to the jaw.

What Are the Causes?

Due to the various forms of TMD, it can often be challenging to determine the exact causes. Previously, general theory and research have suggested that TMDs typically arise from physical trauma to the jaw and its joints, and digital x-rays have proven helpful in confirming this diagnosis. However, not all cases of TMDs involve an injury.

Recent research has delved into the role that genetics, lifestyle, and psychological stress can play in the development of TMD. There are also discussions of how one’s perception of pain affects the severity and longevity of temporomandibular joint disorders.

What Are the Symptoms of TMDs?

Once again, symptoms can vary depending on the exact form of TMD that a patient experiences. However, the symptoms will help to identify the type of TMD and the necessary treatment.

Symptoms of TMD include:

  • Jaw pain, or pain that spreads from the jaw to the face and neck
  • Jaw stiffness and locking
  • Painful clicking, popping, or grating of the jaw joints when opening or closing the mouth
  • Ringing in the ears, or hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in how the upper and lower teeth fit together

Be aware that non-painful clicking of the jaw joints is a natural part of life. Unless you experience pain when this occurs, clicking sounds are most likely harmless to you and are not caused by TMD.

What Are the Treatment Options for TMD?

The symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders often disappear naturally over time, even if the root cause is not confirmed. Taking some lifestyle precautions will help protect your mouth when experiencing TMD symptoms. Your doctor or dentist may recommend that you eat soft foods, perform gentle exercises, use hot or cold packs to gently stretch the muscles, or take over-the-counter medications.

In cases that persist, or where a doctor or dentist can determine a specific type of TMD, they may recommend more involved treatments such as any of the following:

  • Physical therapy with a medical professional to maintain, improve, or restore jaw function
  • Behavioral health approaches to help avoid damaging activities and self-manage one’s condition
  • Prescription medications
  • Intraoral devices that cover one’s teeth during the night

Where Can I Receive Treatment for TMD?

If you believe you’re experiencing TMD symptoms, there’s no need to wait to seek help. Prescott Dentistry’s dental staff is proud to offer holistic diagnostics and treatment plans to help you overcome your condition. Contact us today at 928-445-1660 to schedule an appointment.

Photo by Sammy Sander on Pixalby.