The terms TMJ and TMD are often used interchangeably. Find out what distinguishes the two, and learn more about common jaw disorders.

What is the difference between TMJ and TMD?
The terms TMJ and TMD are used interchangeably because they are very closely related. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the joint that connects your jaw to the rest of your skull. It allows you to talk, chew, and move your mouth. TMD stands for temporomandibular joint disorders, which are problems with that specific joint.

What causes TMD?
Doctor’s don’t always know what causes TMD, but there are many common options. Some frequent causes of TMD include:

  • Trauma to the joint.
  • Subconscious grinding of the teeth
  • Clenching the jaw or tightening facial muscles (These problems are often caused by stress)
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Arthritis of the temporomandibular joint
  • Cartilage damage near the jaw
  • Damage to the shock absorbing disc

What are the symptoms of TMD?
Symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) include migraines, tension headaches, clicking or popping sounds when you talk or chew, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), chronic pain in the jaw, and swelling or asymmetry in the face. Some patients with TMD may also notice neck, back, or shoulder pain. They may also notice that their jaw gets temporarily locked into one position.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your dentist before the condition worsens or the damage becomes permanent.

What treatments are available?
The treatments used to solve TMD will vary depending on your condition. In some mild cases, lifestyle changes that reduce stress or prevent teeth grinding can resolve the issue. Some patients may need to rest the jaw, stretch and massage muscles in the area, wear a mouth guard at night, or correct misaligned teeth to reduce tension in the area. In severe cases, a surgical procedure may be required.

Dr. Wright at Centennial Dental Center has experience and training that enables him to analyze patient’s conditions, diagnose problems, and decide on treatment. Some TMD treatments available at Centennial Dental Center include splint therapy and neuromuscular equilibration techniques. If you’d like to learn more about TMD and available treatments, schedule an appointment today.