The tongue-twister term, temporomandibular joint usually gets shortened to TMJ and we all have two of them that connects our jaw to the rest of our head. In general, when this TMJ area hurts it most often is referred to as TMD. However, TMD can be broken down into two fundamental conditions. The first is a muscular disorder where related symptoms and jaw dysfunction are primarily a result of muscular spasm in the muscles of jaw function. This condition is more precisely described as myofascial pain dysfunction or MPD.
The second condition is primarily an anatomical disorder whose symptoms and dysfunction result predominantly from anatomical dysfunction of the TMJ. This form of TMD, officially referred to as Internal Derangement, results from a failure of the gears or parts of the joint to work smoothly or in harmony with one another.
The treatment of TMD depends on what form of TMD that you have. Therefore, we must learn specifically if you have TMD and, if so, what kind of TMD do you have. Following a thorough medical history and physical examination, we are likely to suggest any or all of the following as aids in establishing a diagnosis and sometimes assist in rendering definitive treatment:
- Jaw rest
- Muscle relaxants and/or anti-inflammatory medication
- A bite splint or night guard
- That you have x-rays taken
- That you seek the assistance of a registered physical therapist.
Although surgery is frightening to most of us, it is sometimes the most efficient and effective treatment option. Surgery, however, should not ever be taken lightly and should not be considered a panacea. There are certain forms of TMD, specifically MPD, that should never be treated with surgery. On the other hand, surgery can mean tremendous relief to the patient suffering from the anatomical form of this disease.