How Does TMJ/TMD Impact Oral Health?

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a condition of the temporomandibular joint, sometimes known as TMJ. Both TMJ/TMD impact oral health. Many times, the terms TMD and TMJ are used interchangeably; however, using TMD to refer to a set of conditions causing dysfunction and pain in the jaw joint and connected muscles is more appropriate.  

We don’t know exactly how many people actually have TMD, although estimates put the figure at over 10 million people within the United States. It is believed that twice as many women are impacted by TMD as men.

What are the symptoms of TMD?

TMD can cause a variety of symptoms, particularly involving the jaw joint and chewing muscles. Some symptoms include:

  • Restricted jaw joint movement, or even a complete inability to open or close the jaw, commonly known as “lockjaw”
  • Severe discomfort or pain in the area of the face, neck, or shoulders, particularly when opening the mouth wide or chewing and speaking
  • Painful popping, clicking, or grating sounds emanating from the jaw joint when the mouth is opening or closing
  • A sudden and significant change in how the upper and lower teeth fit together
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Facial swelling
  • Tired facial muscles
  • Headaches, hearing problems, dizziness, and ringing in the ears, medically known as tinnitus

Causes of TMD

It is not always known what causes TMD, although one common cause is some type of injury to the temporomandibular joint or jaw. For example, a heavy blow can result in the fracturing of bones or damage to the jaw, which causes pain or locking. Jaw joint arthritis may also set in due to an injury to this area, leading to pain.

How does TMJ/TMD impact my oral health?

Our teeth, muscles, and jaw joints all work in harmony with one another to function properly. This harmonious relationship is important for overall oral health. For example, a patient dealing with bruxism, or teeth grinding, may also suffer from TMD. In most cases, this patient will be dealing with tooth pain due to all of the pressure applied to their teeth.

Another potential impact of TMD is that it can lead to malocclusion or worn dentition. You may start suddenly noticing changes when you bite, teeth moving and certain teeth bearing additional stress on them. Since some teeth are now bearing an extra burden of biting and chewing force, they are at a greater risk of fracturing and developing problems. 

Another potential problem that can be caused by TMD is that it may make it more difficult for the affected patient to open and close their mouth. When it becomes more difficult to simply eat or talk, you may lack the motivation to maintain a proper oral hygiene routine. In turn, this could lead to problems like cavities and tooth decay, and not to mention can be very painful for patients. 

For More Information

If you would like to receive more information about the oral health impacts of TMD, or you suspect that you are dealing with TMD yourself, don’t hesitate to contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Thanks for your support!

– Dr. Houlik


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