TM disorder describes a variety of conditions affecting the temporomandibular joint - TMJ (the point where the jaw opens and closes) and nerves related to chronic facial pain. These problems are now more easily diagnosed and treated than in the past. Women are twice as likely to be affected than men.
The exact cause of the disorder is unknown. Some factors are related to an improper bite or malocclusion, injury, arthritis, severe stress, or a combination of factors. Clenching or grinding teeth, a condition called bruxism, may develop from stress or as part of a sleep disorder. This can tire muscles and create painful spasms, causing even more pain. Repeated muscle problems may affect the joints, resulting in tissue damage, muscle tenderness, and more spasms, perpetuating a cycle of pain.
Proper diagnosis is critical to make sure you receive treatment for your particular condition. Your dentist will recommend treatment after conducting a thorough health history, clinical exam, taking appropriate X-rays, and perhaps confirming the condition through other diagnostic tests.
Your dentist may prescribe a multiple-phase treatment plan. Only minor corrective treatment may be needed. Treatment may be simple or require more steps for alleviating the condition, depending on the degree of severity. Some of these treatments include:
In most cases, the symptoms related to TM disorders can be successfully treated to reduce or eliminate your discomfort. Postponement of treatment usually results in more damage to the joint, muscles, or teeth. Be sure to discuss any questions you may have about TM symptoms and treatment plans with your dentist.
By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO