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What is TMJ and TMD? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

As part of TMJ Awareness Month Dr. Karen Harriman will explore what TMJ is, its causes, common symptoms, and what treatments are recommended for the condition. Firstly, let’s define TMJ — this stands for temporomandibular joint and it refers to the joint where the jaw connects to the skull (the mandible and the temporal bones). Although many people use the term TMJ to describe the issue, chronic jaw pain is actually due to suffering with TMJ disorder or TMD. In this blog, we will use the terms interchangeably.

Many patients are suffering unknowingly as the symptoms of TMD can be non-distinct and can include:

  • Persistent jaw pain and facial pain

  • Frequent headaches, with pain around the temples

  • Popping or clicking sound when chewing or opening your mouth

  • Pain or discomfort when chewing

  • Ringing in the ears or earaches

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to make an appointment at your Falls Church dentist as soon as possible so Dr. Harriman can examine your needs and help remedy your pains. TMJ issues can cause sleepless nights and make it hard to eat, reducing your quality of life so we want to ensure you’re seen promptly to help alleviate this soreness.

You may experience TMD due to a variety of reasons, and the reason will determine your treatment path. Grinding your teeth (bruxism) can be a main cause of TMJ — if Dr. Harriman notices this is the underlying reason, she may recommend a custom mouth guard to reduce the impact of teeth grinding and may provide you with some resources to help with stress management. Other reasons for TMD may be due to a misaligned bite, causing persistent pain — in this case Dr. Harriman may prescribe you with orthodontic treatment to straighten your bite which will improve your symptoms.

In the short term, Dr. Harriman may recommend some dietary changes, such as eating softer food and a diet that promotes reducing inflammation in the body. If you are suffering from TMJ, it’s important not to chew gum or bite your nails. You may sometimes require some physical therapy to improve your jaw mobility or if you have a more severe case, you may be referred to a surgeon to repair or replace the joint.

The earlier you visit your Falls Church dentist, the quicker we can find a solution that suits you and lets you get on with your daily life without unnecessary pain. Make an appointment today!


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