Temporomandibular disorder: what it is, causes, symptoms and treatment

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is an abnormality in the functioning of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is responsible for the movement of opening and closing the mouth, which can be caused by tightening the teeth too much during sleep, a blow in the region or the habit of biting nails, for example.

Thus, an abnormality in the functioning of this joint and the muscles that work in the movement of the jaw, characterizes TMD. When this happens, it is common to experience orofacial discomfort and headache.

For this, the treatment for TMD is done by placing a rigid plate that covers the teeth to sleep, and it is also important to perform physical therapy with postural reprogramming exercises.

Main symptoms

The most common symptoms of TMD are:

  • Headache upon waking or at the end of the day;
  • Pain in the jaw and face when opening and closing the mouth, which worsens when chewing;
  • Feeling of tired face during the day;
  • Not being able to open your mouth completely;
  • One side of the face is more swollen;
  • Worn out teeth;
  • Deviation of the jaw to one side, when the person opens his mouth;
  • Crackles when opening the mouth;
  • Difficulties in opening your mouth;
  • Vertigo;
  • Buzz.

All of these factors cause the joint and jaw muscles to be affected, causing pain, discomfort and crackling. TMJ pain can often cause headaches, in which case the pain is caused by constant stimulation of the face and chewing muscles.

How to confirm the diagnosis

To confirm the diagnosis of TMD and have the correct treatment, the ideal is to look for a dentist trained in "Temporomandibular disorders and orofacial pain".

To diagnose TMD, questions are asked about the patient's symptoms and then a physical examination is carried out which involves palpation of the chewing and TMJ muscles.

In addition, complementary exams, such as MRI and computed tomography, may also be indicated in certain cases.

Possible causes

TMD can have several causes, from changes in emotional state, genetic factors and oral habits, such as tightening the teeth, which can be instinctive when there is feeling anxiety or anger, but it can also be a nocturnal habit that is often not realize. This condition is called bruxism, and one of its signs is that the teeth are very worn. Learn how to identify and treat bruxism.

However, there are other causes for the appearance of TMJ pain, such as incorrect chewing, having had a blow to the region, having very crooked teeth that force the muscles of the face or the habit of biting nails and biting the lips.

How the treatment is done

Treatment is done according to the type of TMD the person has. In general, physiotherapy sessions, massage to relax the muscles of the face and head and the use of an acrylic dental plaque made by the dentist, for night use, are recommended.

The use of anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants may also be recommended by the dentist to relieve acute pain. Learn more details about TMJ pain management. In addition, the dentist may suggest learning relaxation techniques to control muscle tension in the jaw.

When changes appear in some parts of the jaw, such as joints, muscles or bone, and previous treatments are not effective, surgery may be recommended.