What are temporomandibular (TM) disorders?
Temporomandibular (TM) disorders is the name given to several problems with jaw
movement and pain in and around the
jaw joints .
You may also hear TM disorders called TMJ, TMD, or
The jaw joints, or
temporomandibular (TM) joints, connect the lower
jawbone (mandible) to the skull. These flexible joints are used more than any
other joint in the body. They allow the jaw to open and close for talking,
chewing, swallowing, yawning, and other movements.
have problems with jaw movement and pain in and around the jaw joints at some
time during their lives. These joint and muscle problems are complex. So
finding the right diagnosis and treatment of TM disorders may take some
What are the symptoms?
TM disorders can affect the
jaw and jaw joint as well as muscles in the face, shoulder, head, and neck.
Common symptoms include joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, joint sounds,
trouble with fully opening the mouth, and jaw locking.
cases, symptoms of TM disorders are mild. They tend to come and go without
getting worse and usually go away without a doctor?s care.
people who have TM disorders develop long-lasting (chronic) symptoms. Chronic pain or difficulty moving the jaw may affect talking, eating, and
swallowing. This may affect a person's overall sense of well-being.
See a picture of
areas often affected by TM disorder pain .
What causes TM disorders?
The most common cause of
TM disorder symptoms is muscle tension, often triggered by stress. When you are
under stress, you may be in the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth.
These habits can tire the jaw muscles and lead to a cycle of muscle spasm,
tissue damage, pain, sore muscles, and more spasm.
can start when there is a problem with the joint itself, such as:
- An injury to the joint or the tissues around
- Problems with how the joint is shaped.
diseases, such as
- The articular disc
that cushions the joint shifts out of place.
How is a TM disorder diagnosed?
Although there is
no one way to identify a TM disorder, your doctor can most likely check your
condition with a physical exam and by asking questions about your past health.
In some cases, an
CT scan, or
MRI is also used to check for bone or soft tissue
problems related to symptoms of TM disorder.
How is it treated?
TM disorder symptoms usually go
away without treatment. Simple home treatment can often relieve mild jaw pain.
There are things you can do at first to reduce pain.
- Rest your jaw joint.
medicines for a short time, to reduce swelling or relax muscles.
Put either an ice pack or a warm, moist cloth on your jaw for 15 minutes
several times a day if it makes your jaw feel better. Or you can switch back
and forth between moist heat and cold. Gently open and close your mouth while
you use the ice pack or heat. But don't use heat if your jaw is swollen. Use
only ice until the swelling is gone.
- Eat soft foods. And avoid
chewy foods and chewing gum.