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What You Need to Know About Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

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FYI - Your temporomandibular joint is the hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of each ear. This joint lets you move your jaw up and down and side to side, so you can talk, chew and yawn.

If you have problems with your jaw, and the muscles in your face that control it, you have a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). On occasion you may hear it wrongly called TMJ, after the joint.

What are the causes of TMD?
While the exact causes of TMD are not known, dentists believe symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of your jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. Injury to your jaw, the joint or the muscles of your head and neck, for instance from a heavy blow or whiplash, can lead to TMD.

Other causes of TMD include:
• Grinding or clenching your teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TM joint
• Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the TM joint
• Arthritis in the TM joint
• Stress, which can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench your teeth

What Are the Symptoms of TMD?
TMD often causes severe pain and discomfort. It can be temporary or can last many years and it might affect one or both sides of your face. TMD is more common in women than men and is most common among people between the ages of 20 and 40.

Common symptoms of TMD include:
• Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders and in or around your ear when you chew, speak or open your mouth wide
• Problems when you try to open your mouth wide
• Jaws that get "stuck" or "locked" in the open- or closed-mouth position
• Clicking, popping or grating sounds in your jaw joint when you open or close your mouth or chew. This may or may not be painful.
• A tired feeling in your face
• Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite -- as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
• Swelling on the side of your face

If you have a TMD you may also have toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain and ringing in your ears (tinnitus).

If you experience any of these symptoms make sure you alert Dr. Lathangue. Most patients with TMJ disorders can be successfully treated with a combination of oral medications, physical therapy and splints. Don’t suffer in silence, Dr. Lathangue can help you with this condition.

Please contact Dogwood Dental Health Centre in Campbell River for more information or to make an appointment.