It has been a while since I have visited the discussion of TMD. At our office in the North Jersey/Wayne area we have found great success treating patients with chronic head and neck pain. It can be such a crippling problem with long term chronic pain issues. There has been some strong correlation between TMD and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). I will try in the next several blogs to discuss the causes and treatments that are available with some first hand comments by patients that have been treated.  In this first blog on TMD let’s take at look at what it is  exactly. 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 TMJ, which stands for  temporomandibular joint.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) 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. The cause of TMD is not 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 TMJ
  • Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
  • Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
  • Stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth

Today we know that there are many causes of head and neck problems that may or may not be related to the temporomandibular joint. It is for this reason,  although not as widely familiar, I generally use “TMD” (for temporomandibular disorders) to more accurately decribe the condition.

You may normally think of a number of the symptoms of TMD as being medical conditions, not related to dentistry. The next sevral blogs will explain what they are, and why they involve the head and neck and how we can diagnosis and treat them.

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