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Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) is an umbrella term covering pain and dysfunction of the muscles that move the jaw and the joints which connect the mandible to the skull. The most important feature is pain, followed by restricted mandibular movement and noises from the temporomandibular joints during jaw movement. Although TMD is not life-threatening, it can be detrimental to quality of life because the symptoms can become chronic and difficult to manage.
HOW IS TMD DIAGNOSED?
The dentist may take full face X-rays so he can view the jaws, temporomandibular joints, and teeth to rule out other problems. He may need to do other tests, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). The MRI can show if the TMJ disc is in the proper position as the jaw moves. A CT scan shows the bony detail of the joint.
HOW IS TMD TREATED?
While there is no single cure for TMD, there are different treatments that may reduce your symptoms dramatically. The dentist may recommend one or more of the following:
• Trying to eliminate muscle spasm and pain by applying moist heat or taking medication, such as muscle relaxants, aspirin, other over-the-counter pain-relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs.
• Reducing the harmful effects of clenching and grinding by wearing a night guard or splint. Custom-made to fit your mouth, the device slips over the upper teeth and keeps them from grinding against the lower teeth.
• Learning relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension in the jaw.
• Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) uses low-level electrical currents to relax joint and facial muscles and provide relief.
• A dentist may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain and swelling.
DID YOU KNOW?
TMD affects the 'chewing' muscles and the joints between the lower jaw and the base of the skull.