TMJD, or temporomandibular joint disorders, also sometimes known as TMJ or TMD, is the set of diseases and disorders characterized by inflammation of the jaw joint.
An individual with TMJD may experience any or all of the following symptoms: discomfort when opening or closing the mouth; inability to close or open the mouth; pain in the neck, shoulder, back or head; clicking or popping sound in the jaw; feeling of an irregular bite; swelling of the face; and difficulty eating, speaking, swallowing, chewing or breathing.
TMJ disorders may fall under the following categories: inflammatory joint disease, such as arthritis, capsulitis, or synovitis; myofascial pain where trigger points are present in muscles around or near the jaw; and internal derangement of the joint, where the disc that acts as a cushion between the mandible and skull is displaced or deteriorated.
Another means of categorizing the set of conditions known as TMJ disorders is myogenous, which refers to affected muscles of the jaw and mouth, and arthrogenous, which refers to the hard and soft tissues or the temporomandibular joint.
Possible known contributing factors of TMJD include: injury to the jaw; teeth grinding or jaw clenching; arthritis; infection; hormones; auto-immune diseases and genetics.
More than 10 million Americans suffer from TMJD at any given time. Of those who seek healthcare treatment, 90 percent are women between 30 and 50 years old.
High-risk groups include those with a structural deformity of the jaw or teeth, those who experienced an injury to the jaw, face or neck, highly stressed individuals and those with diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain and sleep disorders.
As the causes and symptoms of TMJD are not fully understood, and because the symptoms of TMJD are also present in a number of conditions including toothache, ear infection and headaches, TMJD is often difficult to diagnose.
Treatment options for TMJD include: cold and hot compress; stretching and exercise; eating soft, small-bite-sized foods; relaxation techniques; over-the-counter and prescription pain management medications; and nightime dental appliances. Surgery and other irreversible solutions meant to alter the bite should be carefully considered, as they have not been shown to be effective in the treatment of TMJD.
TMJD symptoms may vary from mild to severe, and mild cases frequently become better in a matter of weeks or months with common-sense care such as applying ice and preventing additional strain on the jaw and surrounding muscles.
When cases of TMJD are severe and persistent, there may be no cure for the condition. Instead, ongoing management of symptoms is required. In these cases, becoming educated about the condition, seeking advice from healthcare professionals from a number of relevant specialties, and participating in support groups such as the TMJ Association may be of help to an individual.