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Are you experiencing TMJ pain?
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) and TMJ syndrome are painful conditions that influence everything from your jaw to migraine headaches and muscle fatigue through your neck and back.
The TMJ connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear. Certain facial muscles that control chewing are also attached to the lower jaw. Problems in this area can trigger head and neck pain, facial pain, ear pain, headaches, a jaw that is locked in position or difficult to open, problems with biting, and jaw clicking or popping sounds when you bite.
The TMJ is comprised of muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and bones. You have two TMJs, one on each side of your jaw.
Muscles involved in chewing also open and close your mouth. The jawbone itself, controlled by the TMJ, has two movements: rotation or hinge action, which is opening and closing your mouth, and gliding action, a movement that allows your mouth to open wider. The coordination of this action also allows you to talk, chew, and yawn.
If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joint and its movement. When you open your mouth, the rounded ends of the lower jaw (condyles) glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone.
The condyles slide back to their original position when you close your mouth. To keep this motion smooth, a soft disk of cartilage lies between the condyle and the temporal bone. This disk absorbs shock to the temporomandibular joint from chewing and other movements. Chewing produces a strong pressure. This disk distributes the forces of chewing throughout the joint area.
Dr. Carpenter works closely with every patient to help them overcome their jaw pain and TMJ disorder. His extensive training and knowledge of TMD allows us to provide holistic and effective therapies for patients of all ages and backgrounds.
How is TMD diagnosed?
Several other conditions can cause similar symptoms to TMD—like gum disease, tooth decay, arthritis or sinus problems. To determine what’s causing yours, we’ll take your medical history and conduct a physical exam. We’ll make sure your jaw works like it should and doesn’t lock when you open or close your mouth. We’ll also check your jaw joints for pain or tenderness, and listen for clicks, pops, or grating sounds when you move them. In addition, we’ll test your bite and check for any problems with your facial muscles. Other causes of face or neck pain include swollen lymph nodes (swollen glands), giant cell arteritis, salivary gland disease, sore throat, ill-fitting dentures, or dental braces.
If necessary, additional problems can be ruled out with full face X-rays.This is so we can view your temporomandibular joints, jaws, and teeth. Other tests may also be needed, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computer tomography (CT). The
MRI can show if the TMJ disc is in the proper position as your jaw moves. A CT scan shows the bony detail of the joint.
What are some risk factors for TMJ syndrome?
Ongoing studies conducted by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, are focused on evaluating risk factors for TMJ syndrome in healthy individuals. Initial results have identified a group of physiological, psychological, sensory, genetic and nervous system factors that may increase the risk of developing TMJ syndrome. New findings will allow us to better understand the onset and progression of TMJ syndrome. Furthermore, novel ways to diagnose and treat the condition can be developed. Below are some risk factors that have been identified:
Gender: Women are at higher risk of developing TMJ syndrome compared to men. Additionally, there may be differences in how women and men respond to pain and to pain medications. Age: Studies of individuals between the ages of 18-44 show that the risk to develop TMJ conditions increases for women. This has been noted especially for women during their childbearing years. For men ages 18-44, there was no increased risk.
Pain tolerance: Studies suggest that people who are more sensitive to mildly painful stimuli have an increased risk of developing TMJ syndrome.
Genetics: There is some indication that genes related to stress response, psychological health, and inflammation may increase the risk for TMJ syndrome.
Chronic pain: Those who suffer from chronic pain conditions such as lower back pain and headaches may be at increased risk for TMJ syndrome.
Dr. Carpenter and his San Diego team can help relieve your TMD symptoms. We can help identify what will be the best treatment option for you. We offer mouthguards and nightguards to help prevent grinding and to ensure that your jaw is in the proper position. We can also check to see if there are other issues contributing to TMD, such as an uneven jaw or a bad bite.
The Benefits of TMD Treatment
Even if you’re used to the TMD symptoms you experience each day, please know that you don’t have to live with them forever. Treatment can provide a higher quality of life for you every day. More importantly, you can be free from muscle pain, headaches or migraines. Your jaw will be more flexible without the soreness created by TMD. Your sleep may also improve, which means you’ll be able to focus better on your daily tasks.
Let us help! Come see our team in San Diego to start feeling better as quickly as possible. We can answer any questions you may have about TMD and your treatment options.