TMJ or TMD…Which one is it?

Due to the lack of sufficient public knowledge regarding TMD, it is often incorrectly referred to as TMJ, which simply means temporomandibular joint. This is the joint that connect the jaw to the skull.

When this joint is in proper alignment with the skull, the result is a well-synchronised muscle action. Otherwise, some serious problems arise such as migraine, clicking sound near the ear and sometimes, locked jaws.

TMD Categories

TMD fall into three basic categories namely myofascial pain, degenerative joint disease and internal derangement of the joint:

  1. Myofascial pain- This is the most common TMD condition which is highly associated with pain and discomfort of the muscles that move the jaws as well as the muscles around the head, shoulders and neck.
  2. Internal derangement of the joint- This is a condition that relates to the displacement of the disc of the joints, the jaw and the injury to the condyle or the round-like edges of the jaw joints.
  3. Degenerative joint disease- This is a condition that is directly caused by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Causes of TMD

Basically, TMD arises from problems with either the joints of the jaw, head and neck and the muscles surrounding the jaw that cause the improper positioning of these structures.

Well accepted causes of the TMJ disorder are commonly identified as follows:

  • Trauma
    It has been proven time and time again that trauma on any area that works with the TMJ joints, can affect the function and proper alignment with the jaws and the muscles responsible for chewing. A trauma is an injury that has affected the jaw and its surrounding area with intensity ranging anywhere from a heavy blow to subtle whiplash which may or may not have direct trauma to the jaw. The heavier the blow, the more likely it is to cause damage to the temporomandibular joints which lead to higher possibilities of jaw displacement.
  • Intubation
    Intubation that is facilitated usually during hospital procedures is also pointed out as one of the major causes of TMJ disorder. This surgical procedure forces the mouth to open for the insertion of the tube, thus leading to excessive tension to the surrounding tissues and the ligaments that intubation creates.
  • Stress on the jaw
    Excessive chewing, grinding and clenching of the teeth put unnecessary amounts of pressure on the jaw. This is typically associated with stress.
  • Jaw Dislocation
    Dislocation of the parts of the jaw joints such as the cushioning disc.
  • Arthritis
    Development of arthritis on the jaw joint, specifically rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Neuromuscular Dentistry

Neuromuscular Dentistry is a field in dentistry that takes into consideration the various structures that affect proper Occlusion. These structures include the muscles of the head, neck and jaw, the teeth and the temporomandibular joints, otherwise known as TMJ.

While most dentistry is limited to one dimension – the study of the teeth, Neuromuscular Dentistry tries to encompass the other two dimensions – the temporomandibular joints or TMJ’s and the underlying and surrounding muscles. This field allows for the appropriate treatment of symptoms not normally encountered in a typical dental practice.