Understanding TMD

By Kevin Dowd December 8, 2017

While often underestimated, the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, plays a significant role in a number of daily functions. From enabling chewing, swallowing and smiling to even to facilitating breathing, the TMJ is an incredibly important part of your anatomy. As a result, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, known as TMD, can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform those routine and necessary functions.

What is TMD?
TMD is a fairly broad term used to describe a condition affecting the functionality of the jaw joint. Normally, the mandible (jaw) is able to move via a set of condyles which glide along sockets located on the skull. Between the socket and condyle is a soft tissue disc, which ensures smooth movement. However, when the disc becomes dislodged or worn, this gliding motion can be extremely painful, causing movement limitation and affecting the individual’s ability to effectively speak, chew, swallow, and even make facial expressions.

The Causes of TMD
While there is no specific cause of TMD, there are a number of factors that can increase the likelihood of developing a TMD as well as pre-existing conditions that can lead to TMD. These include:
  • Autoimmune Diseases or Infections
  • Trauma to the area
  • Dental procedures or instances of prolonged mouth opening
  • Arthritis
  • Genetic and environmental factors

Interestingly, studies on the prevalence of the TMD have indicated that these conditions were more common among women in their childbearing years, suggesting that hormones may play a role in the development of the condition.

Treating TMD
When it comes to alleviating the pain caused by TMD, night guards have also been shown to be highly effective and non-invasive. Stabilization splints act as a barrier between the upper and lower dental arches. This allows the jaw to rest in a neutral position, preventing muscle spasms as well as bruxism from occurring.
To determine the best stabilization splint for your case of TMD, in-depth images of the patient’s dentition and jaw are taken to determine the best type of oral appliance for your case of TMD. Advanced impressions are then taken to create the splint. Once the splint has been made, final adjustments are made and patients are free to take their oral appliance home with them. At our Pleasant Hill dental office, we also schedule follow up appointments to ensure proper splint use and function.
Additionally, there are a number of home remedies that patients can use to help minimize pain and inflammation. Some of these self-care practices include avoiding hard, crunchy, or sticky foods, applying ice packs, avoiding extreme jaw motion, practicing stress relief and relaxation techniques, as well as trying gentle stretches to help increase and stabilize jaw movement.

Facing TMD Pain? Contact Dr. Dowd today!

At our Pleasant Hill dental office, family dentist Dr. Dowd offers night guards as a way to alleviate jaw pain caused by TMD. For more information about treating this jaw condition, contact our team today.