What is TMD/TMJ Syndrome, And Why Do I Have It??

What is TMD/TMJ Syndrome, And Why Do I Have It??
Posted on 03/07/2018

TMD/TMJ Syndrome (Temporo-Mandibular Disfunction/Tempor-Mandibular Joint) can be described as a cycle of symptoms which flare causing intermittent pain to the jaw muscles, the jaw joint, face, head, neck and even back.  The primary cause of TMD is STRESS.  The TMJ is the only joint system that subconsciously registers stress levels in the body.  People who have this syndrome usually clinch, grind or grit their teeth during the day (and aren’t aware of it) and/or at night (when they can’t control it.)  

Imagine clinching your fists and putting your knuckles flat against each other and pressing as hard as you can for as long as you can.  After a while something in your body would breakdown—your knuckles would bruise, your wrists would ache, and your shoulders and back would go into spasm. This is what is happening in your face and head during prolonged clinching and grinding. 

The excessive pressure from grinding or clenching your teeth causes over stimulation and eventual fatigue of the facial muscles which often results in painful spasms.
  These spasms also over stimulate the nerves in the face (especially the trigeminal ganglion) which is responsible for providing sensation from the temple to the chin.  Once the nerve ganglion reaches its stimulation threshold it will generate nerve pulses across the face.  Your face may be extremely sensitive to the touch or you might experience migraine headaches.

Other symptoms I have encountered with TMD patients include neck and back pain, nausea, dizziness, irritability, insomnia, toothaches, and more.  Trauma to the jaw joint from a motor vehicle accident or a blow to the face can also cause TMD.

The good news most TMD cases are relatively easy to treat.  I recommend an NTI (nociceptive temporalis suppression system) which is a special type of guard worn between the front teeth to alleviate clinching and grinding.  I also recommend treating the source of TMD by releasing stress through creative outlets such as yoga, meditation, and other mind-body exercises.

I also highly recommend myofacial massage therapy which will, not only help break stubborn muscle spasms and lengthen the muscles to their original resting position, but also to simply relieve stress. In rare instances TMD will not resolve to a tolerable level with this therapy in which case other modalities, such as surgery, may be explored.  In particular, TMD resulting from trauma may take longer to resolve.  Other things to remember—your teeth should only touch when you chew and swallow—at all other times they should not touch!  The NTI is a great diagnostic tool as it will provide clues as to when and where you clinch and/or grind.

TMJ/TMD is also episodic and dictated by stress levels; therefore, you may notice symptoms return during certain stressful times of the month, year, or life.  Again the key is to manage the stress and reduce the tension on the facial muscles, nerves and joint complex and wear the NTI as directed until symptoms subside.  For patients with TMD I always recommend wearing the NTI at night as a preventative therapy.

If you are experiencing TMD pain, please call to make and appointment so we can try to resolve your problem: Call Today 410-296-7599 for an appointment!

Yours in Dental Health,
Dr. Brett Friedman