What Is TMD or TMJ?

What Is TMD or TMJ?

TMD, or Temporomandibular Disorder, is characterized by a collection of symptoms such as chipped or worn teeth, loose teeth or painful jaw muscles and/or joints.  Some patients give a history of grinding their teeth at night, noticing clicking in their jaw or feeling that their teeth fit together differently.

TMJ refers to the temporomandiubar joint, the hinge complex that is involved with jaw movement.

At her dental office in Madison, NJ, Dr. Allison M. Adams conducts a comprehensive exam to diagnose the causes of the pain and breakdown.  All jaw pain is not related to the teeth.  It may be from stress, strain on muscles or even sleep apnea.  Treatment options are based on your symptoms, the factors contributing to the breakdown of your teeth, and what your goals are for your dental health.

Diagnosing the Underlying Issue

It is important to diagnose the cause of the bite problem before designing treatment to address the symptoms. Just relieving pain or repairing broken teeth doesn’t solve the underlying problem. To diagnose your problem, a functional analysis will be done. This analysis is a multi-step procedure that analyzes your bite and provides diagnostic information. Your diagnostic evaluation will look at:

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Worn teeth
  • Changes in the position of your jaw
  • Changes in the size and shape of your teeth
  • Pain in your jaw, face, neck, shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Earaches

Diagnosing TMD with a Deprogrammer

If the way the teeth fit teeth is suspected as a cause of pain we may use a deprogrammer, a short-term removable appliance that erases the muscle’s memory of how the mouth closes and how the teeth originally fit together. By removing the teeth from the joint function equation, it allows the jaw to close in its ideal, physiologic position, therefore diagnosing the issue.

Based on the results of the deprogrammer, long-term treatment options will be discussed. Some of the possible conditions and their signs and symptoms that may be diagnosed include:

  • Constricted Chewing Pattern 
    • Thin or chipped front teeth
    • Tooth position that has changed over time or spaces developing around front teeth
    • Front teeth touch when speaking
    • When jaw is relaxed, the lower jaw comes forward
    • Pain when eating hard or chewy foods
    • Avoidance of chewing gum or bagels
    • More comfortable with jaw open
    • History of orthodontic treatment especially involving extraction of teeth prior to treatment
  • Occlusal Dysfunction
    • Bite that results in an uneven wear pattern, with more wear on back teeth
    • Discomfort in the jaws that is unrelated to night time grinding or clenching
    • Unsure of where to rest teeth
    • Sense that there may be more than one place to bite together
    • Continued wear of teeth despite the use of a nightguard
    • Awareness that bite has changed
  • Parafunction
    • Associated with unusual habits that cause teeth to rub together
    • Thumb or finger sucking
    • Cheek, lip or nail biting
    • Postural habits (repetitive moving of the jaw to an unnatural spot)
    • Use of musical instruments that aggravates jaw
  • Bruxism
    • Sleep disorder that cannot be controlled voluntarily
    • Clenching or grinding of teeth while sleeping
    • May be related to stress
    • Extreme muscle activity and jaw pressure
    • May be associated with other sleep disorders like Restless Leg Syndrome
    • Can occur sporadically

Once a Bite Problem Diagnosis Is Made

Treatment options may include adjusting the bite, restoring you to your best bite by changing the shape of your restorations, or orthodontic treatment. The goal of treatment is to make you comfortable and pain-free and prevent further damage to the TMJ or teeth.

Find out more about bite problems and how Dr. Adams can help you alleviate pain and tooth damage.

Contact our Patient Care Coordinator

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Since when was going to the dentist so much fun? I just had a great appointment with Dr. Adams that included being numbed for a procedure and I actually enjoyed my visit! And for the record I felt NOTHING!!- Kendra L.
Two thumbs up from the whole Kiser family! Dr. Adams and her staff are the best! We actually look forward to our visits.- By Mary O’Hara Kiser
Dr. Adams Rocks! Dr. Adams has been my dentist for the last 18 years. I am impressed both by her honesty and her commitment to detail. Whenever I have a problem, she takes the time to make sure I understand what she thinks caused it and how I can fix it. She never rushes through my appointment.- By A Google User
Highly Recommended. I have been going to Dr. Adams for over 5 years. She and her staff make it an absolute pleasure to go to the dentist. Dr Adams is very knowledgeable on the latest technology and advancements and has always given me excellent advice and service. I highly recommend her.- By Jane

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