TMD: Common Causes
There are several common reasons that people experience TMD. Among the most common are:
- Trauma (such as from an accident or a fall-related injury)
- Grinding or clenching of teeth (and other unconscious habits)
- A degenerative ailment such as arthritis
Part of the complex system works in tandem with various muscles in the jaw, neck, and head. The Temporomandibular Joint, also known as the jaw joint, joins the jaw to the skull and is responsible for jaw motions that occur while you speak, eat, swallow, and yawn. Located at the front of each ear on both sides of the head, this joint is small in size, but it is one of the body’s most complex.
The Temporomandibular Joint is comprised of:
- Condyle: The lower part of the jaw promotes mandible mobility.
- Disc: The tissue that serves as a gliding surface for the joint to move upon
- Skull Depression: The place in the skull where both the disc and the condyle reside.
TMD: The Symptoms
While the disorder’s symptoms sometimes involve just the Temporomandibular Joint, in most cases, the jaw, neck, head, and all of the muscles operating between them are also affected.
Clicking, grating, and popping noises, as well as TMJ and facial pain, are common symptoms of TMD. Pain behind the eyes, in the sinuses, and the ears are often linked to TMD, along with unexplained headaches, pain when chewing, soreness in shoulders and neck, and limited jaw mobility, and the ability to open one’s mouth more than just slightly.
Pain felt in the face, head, neck, jaw, and teeth that extend beyond normal soreness or discomfort is considered orofacial pain. This pain can be neurologic or muscular and manifest itself in various parts of the face, including toothaches. When these pains are abnormal, they may require a specific type of care or attention.
A dentist can help you figure out if the source of your headaches, at least in working, determines whether they are orofacial or muscle pain or related to TMD. The headaches sourced from neck or head areas can typically be remedied with treatment by the dentist, though more complex matters might need to be referrals to a team of specialists.
The process of diagnosing TMDs begins with an evaluation of the neck and head history and potentially the requisition of X-rays. An exam is conducted, then, with the data compiled, the findings and history are all reviewed in context to determine a treatment plan or move on to the attention of more specialized health care providers.
The grinding of teeth during sleep, known as Bruxism, is due to the jaw’s rhythmic movement. It is commonly linked to snoring, as well as more severe sleep conditions such as sleep apnea. These conditions cause the body to break out of deep sleep often, leading to the lack of sufficient deep sleep, resulting in restlessness and irritability. These are not sourced from stress or bite-related problems.
Bruxism is commonly identified via particular symptoms or signs, including:
- TMD symptoms
- Wearing of teeth, specifically on ones where most biting or chewing takes place
- Achy or tired jaw muscles right after waking up
- Sensitive, broken, or chipped teeth
- Gumline notches
- Perpetual morning headaches
Are Children Affected By TMD?
Children can experience sleeping problems and TMD symptoms as well, though this is attributed to Bruxism and can differ from those experienced by adults. These may result from facial trauma, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, or insufficient and inadequate quality sleep. If there are concerns, speak to your pediatrician about the matter, and they may refer you to other health professionals who specialize in child sleep.
In terms of symptoms, TMD is often detected in children when manifesting as:
- Wearing of teeth
- Grinding or other audible sounds during sleep
- Mouth breathing in their sleep
- Frequent throat infections
- Bite related issues
- Slow lower jaw growth
- Bad moods and irritability
- A decline in academic performance and behavior
The treatments applied generally depend on the context of the condition. When a diagnosis is rendered, the findings are evaluated to determine the proper methods to proceed. Multiple treatments could be recommended as a result, including:
- Apparatuses or appliances that are worn during sleep, typically inside the mouth, to treat snoring, TMD, and sleep apnea
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Pain relievers
- Stress management and biofeedback
- Head, neck, and jaw based physical therapy
- Speech therapy exercise programs
- Referral to specialists
- Orthodontic solutions
- Using braces or other removable tools that promote jaw growth
- The type of orthodontic treatment depends on the diagnosis
- The proper method is determined after a consultation