TMJ and TMD
Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder, also known as TMD, is a set of conditions that causes pain in the jaw muscles. Exactly how many people suffer from TMD is unknown. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates between 5% to 13% of the population suffers from some level of TMD. TMD rates are higher among younger people. What causes TMD and who may have it is a largely debated subject, there is no standard definition for TMD. Scientists researching TMD are looking for the conditions, causes, and effective modes of treatment for TMD. Schedule a dental exam with one of our dentists at if you are in pain or have been afflicted by these symptoms.
The Anatomy Of The Jaw
The lower jawbone, known as the mandible, is supported by muscles and joints on the side of your face near your ears. The part of the jawbone that connects to your skull is called the rami, it has two points like a fork. The rear point close to the back of your skull is called the condylar process. The front point facing the front of your skull is called the coronoid process. The condylar process is where the mandible connects to the skull by the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint rests between the ear canal and the temporal bone. Your jaw and the TMJ have special maneuverability so that you can talk, eat, or yawn. The joints are flexible; you can move your jaw up or down, or side to side. Muscles attached to the jaw hold it steady, controlling its position and movement. The four muscles involved in chewing are the medial pterygoid muscle, lateral pterygoid muscle, masseter muscle, and temporalis muscle. Fewer muscles are involved in chewing than in speech, which requires more anterior facial muscles.
The exact cause of TMD can be hard to pinpoint. TMD is measured and researched by asking patients about the type and duration of muscle, joint, and facial pain, difficulty with chewing, and joint sounds. The findings can widely vary. Most people report mild forms of TMD, their symptoms come and go, and they may experience pain in the jaw for a moment and the pain subsides. Pain in your jaw and sympathetic facial pain can be related to other physical conditions such as ear or sinus infections, headaches or migraines, or facial neuralgias. There is a need for more research on the safety and effectiveness of most treatments for jaw and muscle disorders. It is important, when possible, to avoid any alterations to your jaw until we have a better understanding of safe and effective treatments for TMD. Orthodontic treatments of the crown and bridge to alter the bite known as “occlusal adjustment” are irreversible, have not been proven to be effective, and are likely to make the problems worse. Surgeries have been largely controversial, they are irreversible, and given the lack of a scientific definition of TMD, may be ineffective, and create other issues. A dental exam at Peak Endodontics can help rule out other causes of the jaw or facial pain before making any conclusions on your TMD. One of our dentists can also help recommend more conservative, reversible treatments that can help alleviate your pain. If symptoms persist, you may need multiple visits or a physical exam by your doctor.
Call us at 425-358-9033 to schedule an exam, or for more information regarding TMD.