Temporomandibular disorder, also known as TMD, is a very common condition among both teens and adults. The temporomandibular joints and muscles on either side of your jaw help to open and close your mouth—allowing you to speak, chew, and swallow. Problems in these joints—often caused by malalignment of the teeth, stress-induced muscle tension, or trauma—can often cause discomfort.
Signs of TMD
TMD can present with many different signs and symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Some patients may experience mild symptoms, but are still able to function normally. Other patients may have difficulty chewing, speaking, or sleeping because their condition is so severe.
TMD symptoms often include headaches, earaches, popping of the jaw, painful or tender jaw muscles, and/or facial pain. Many times, we are able to detect and diagnose patients with TMD based on what we find in the mouth—even if patients are unaware of their condition.
Some clinical signs of TMD include:
- Craze lines (small fractures) on the teeth
- A history of cracked teeth
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth, causing wear on the chewing surfaces
- Jaw and/or joint pain
- Small notches on the teeth at the gum line
- Frequent neck pain and/or headaches
Occasionally, patients have TMJ discomfort that is not relieved with a night guard. In the event of more significant symptoms, it is sometimes necessary to consult with a specialist (a dentist who is specifically trained in the management of TMD). Dr. Schultz works very closely with a team of dedicated specialists in the Newnan and Atlanta areas who can evaluate the need for additional therapy, should the need arise.
At Schultz Family Dental, we take a conservative approach to TMJ therapy. During your first appointment, a TMJ assessment will be completed. During this exam, Dr. Schultz will check your range of movement—feeling the muscles around the jaw for areas of tension or discomfort, and checking the TMJ for any popping or clicking. She will also talk to you about the history of your condition, your medical and dental histories, and any symptoms you may be experiencing. If digital radiographs are needed to assist in your diagnosis, those may be taken as well. Finally, Dr. Schultz will look for any signs of grinding or clenching.
For some patients, TMJ symptoms eventually disappear on their own. For others, symptoms may come and go, or can even worsen over time. While there is no complete cure for TMD, your symptoms can usually be managed with appropriate therapy. Occasionally, patients have TMJ discomfort that is not relieved with a night guard. In the event of more significant symptoms, it is sometimes necessary to consult with a specialist (a dentist who is specifically trained in the management of TMD). Dr. Schultz works very closely with a team of dedicated specialists in the Newnan and Atlanta areas who can evaluate the need for additional therapy, should the need arise.
Dr. Schultz usually starts with a routine of self-care practices; however, if it is decided that a night guard is the answer, an impression of your teeth will be taken to create a strong, long-lasting appliance that will be delivered to you 2-3 weeks after your initial appointment.
A thorough assessment is the best way to determine which type of TMJ therapy may be right for you. Contact us today for more information!