Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw. These disorders are often incorrectly called TMD, which stands for temporomandibular joint.
What Is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMD)?
The temporomandibular joint (TMD) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side and enabling you to talk, chew, and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control the position and movement of the jaw.
What Causes TMD?
The cause of TMD is not always clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.
Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck — such as from a heavy blow or whiplash — can cause TMD. Other possible causes include:
- Grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMD
- Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
- Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMD
- Stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
Treatments for TMD range from simple self-care practices and conservative treatments to injections and surgery. Most experts agree that treatment should begin with conservative, nonsurgical therapies, with surgery left as the last resort. Some of these treatments may include occlusal guard therapy, medications, massage and/or physical therapy, orthodontic treatment and changes in diet.
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