What is TMJ and TMD?
If you’re experiencing pain in your jaw, face, ear, or head, you may have temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD). It is a real medical condition and can be quite painful. Yet often medical professionals and information you find online may refer to it as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. TMD and TMJ are closely related and intertwined which can often be confusing for those trying to find relief for their pain. In fact, you may see it referenced as TMJ Disorder or TMJ Syndrome. Yet there is a distinction between TMJ and TMD.
So, what’s the difference between TMJ and TMD?
TMJ refers to the joint on each side of your jaw. It is located in front of your ears and serves as a sliding hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. The temporomandibular joint allows you to move your jaw up-and-down and side-to-side so you can open your mouth to chew, talk, and even to yawn.
TMD disorder involves the jaw joints, muscles that control movement, tendons, ligaments, and/or nerves in the face and head. TMD encompasses any impact or irregularity of these complex joints, muscles, and nerves to function properly. Injury, inflammation, strain, or misalignment can cause mild discomfort to severe chronic pain in the affected individual.
Like any intricate machine with moving parts, gears, and assembly, just about anything can contribute the engineered apparatus to malfunction, sputter, or quit running.
Our movable jaw that we rely on to eat, communicate, and function is sophisticated. The muscles, tendons, bones, nerves, and moveable parts need to function properly. The slight strain or misalignment, due to any number of things, can literally through our TMJ components “out of whack.”
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
Those with TMJ may experience a “clicking or popping” sound in the jaw when opening and closing their mouth. The inflamed or misaligned joint will impact chewing and talking. The severity of the jaw clicking can vary from annoyance to greatly harming one’s daily life and quality of sleep.
TMJ Disorder indicators can also include nerve inflammation in the face and jaw that can trigger headaches, migraines, and awful ear pain. A dislocation or impact of functionality of the temporomandibular joint can cause the jaw to lock or limit the range of motion of opening and closing the jaw.
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Causes of TMJ Disorder
Often jaw problems and pain are only a symptom – secondary to a greater problem affecting the body. This is much like a fever is secondary to the common flu.
For the most part, there isn’t just one contributing cause for TMJ disorder. Although, an acute injury to the head or face can trigger symptoms. Beyond a direct injury, it may be difficult to diagnose TMJ Disorder. However, often individuals’ TMJ problems are contributed by an unidentified sleep breathing issue, obstructive sleep apnea, or bruxism – the habitual and involuntary clenching or grinding of teeth. Jaw pain can also be attributed to genetics, arthritis, structure of the jaw joint, and muscles in head, neck, and face.
Researchers from The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research identify disorders of the jaw joint and chewing muscles as conditions that fall into three categories.
- Myofascial pain is the most common form of TMD and involves discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw function.
- Internal derangement of the joint involves a displacement disc, dislocated jaw, or injury to the condyle.
- Arthritis refers to a group of degenerative / inflammatory joint disorders that can affect the temporomandibular joint.
Someone experiencing TMJ Disorder can experience one or more classification at any time. Proper diagnosis and emphasis on the origin or the pain, rather than symptoms, is key to successfully treating this disorder.
Who Can Diagnose and Treat TMJ Disorder?
Often, patients seek care from a medical or dental professional specifically related to their pain. Most people will start with a visit to their primary care physician or family dentist. Depending on the location and severity of pain, the patient is often referred to a specialist.
For example, if the primary pain is in their ear, they may visit an Ears, Nose, & Throat (ENT) specialist. If migraines are the symptom, patients often visit a neurologist. Visits could also include oral surgeons or orthodontic.
However, a patient can go weeks, months, or even years until they find the right professional to diagnose and treat their pain. This no doubt causes frustration, continued pain, and disruption of the patient’s quality of life.
Patients often go from doctor to doctor to find relief for their pain. Often with disappointment after disappointment. This impacts their life, how they sleep, perform at their job, and care for their family. Not knowing who to see to relieve your pain can be overwhelming. Or worse yet, seeing several practitioners with either limited or no long-term relief.
A dentist who focuses their practice and treatments on TMJ disorder is uniquely qualified to effectively treat the cause of the pain and discomfort. Dentists who focus singularly on helping patients with pain and discomfort from TMJ disorder continue professional study of treatment for those afflicted.
At Bay Area TMJ and Sleep Center, each patient has their own story they share with us of their path to finding treatment. Although each story is unique, we hear time after time about frustration and multiple visits to various doctors. And we are thrilled each and every time when a patient finally find relief and gets their life back!
Dr. Busciglio is dedicated exclusively to the evaluation and treatment of TMJ disorder, craniofacial pain, and sleep apnea and breathing disorders. Our approach involves a comprehensive evaluation for proper diagnosis and non-invasive treatment therapies.
We provide successful results using state of the art technology and research-based treatment in a caring and friendly environment. We recognize and treat each patient as a unique individual.
Contact us online or call for an evaluation at 813-685-6200. We offer in-office appointments as well as initial consultations via telehealth, if you choose.
We follow CDC healthcare recommendations for Covid-19 protocols. As health care professionals, Dr. Busciglio and all our staff have received the Covid vaccine.
Our office is located in Brandon, Florida and we serve patients across the greater Tampa Bay area.