TMD vs TMJ TMD and TMJ are commonly referred to interchangeably, but this is a huge misconception. TMD stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, which can be several different issues causing pain and suffering. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, a very small and fragile joint connecting your jaw to your skull. While TMD and TMJ are a lot alike, they are not the same. What is TMD? TMD is referred to as the various conditions that may arise when one suffers from a dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint. This dysfunction is usually characterized as: A severe or mild pain in the jaw and face Tenderness around the muscles in the jaw Jaw muscles spasms Clicking and/or locking when moving the jaw In some cases, difficulty when chewing TMD can cause severe issues and cause an immense amount of pain if undiagnosed and untreated. What is TMJ? TMJ is the very delicate joint that connects the bottom jaw to the skull right in front of your ears. The joint is a hinge that slides the jaw up and down, from the back to the front, and from side to side. The tissue surrounding the joint can become inflamed, which will cause severe pain and discomfort to the area. This joint is extremely important in your ability to chew, speak, and open your mouth. If it is compromised, it will no longer operate smoothly, causing an issue with your way of life. Causes of TMD / TMJ TMJ dysfunction is most common among adults who are between the ages of 20 and 40. It is also more common in women than in men. Multiple reasons cause TMD / TMJ: Overuse Improper bite Damage by an injury (trauma) Dislocation in the ball and socket joint of the jaw Infection or Inflammation Possible autoimmune diseases like arthritis Stress Grinding or clenching (Bruxism) Symptoms of TMD / TMJ If you believe you may be suffering from a temporomandibular joint disorder, there are several symptoms you may notice. If you can answer yes to most of these questions, it would be in your best interest to consult your periodontist: Do you have pain in your jaw? Are you suffering from earaches or headaches, or can you hear ringing in your ears? Are you experiencing pain in your teeth? Are you struggling with chewing food? Do you hear a clicking or popping sound when you open or close your jaw? Does your jaw often lock, and is there difficulty when opening or closing your mouth? Also, looking to see if your teeth are fitting together the same way or if you notice any abnormal swelling in your face may be signs you are suffering from a dysfunction in your TMJ. Diagnosing TMJ Disorder When you begin to notice TMD symptoms, we highly recommend making an appointment with your periodontist as soon as possible. The more prolonged TMJ Disorder is left untreated, the more severe the pain can become. When you visit your periodontist, the following will occur when looking to diagnose TMD: Check the range of motion when opening and closing your mouth by observing and feeling the joints Press on the jaw to see if there is any obvious discomfort Take X-rays which will show the dentist the damage that is being done. These X-rays may include one or all of the following: Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Panoramic X-ray TMD / TMJ Treatments Treating temporomandibular joint disorder depends on the severity of symptoms and the history of the patient. One of the most common ways to treat TMD pain is having your periodontist prescribe an occlusal guard or stabilization splint. A stabilization splint will control the joint position by making sure the joint stays in its appropriate place. Occlusal guards, like night guards, help with the clenching and grinding of your teeth at night, while mouth guards help protect the joints from damage during contact sports. There are also more holistic treatment options, such as practicing relaxation techniques and focusing on stress reduction.