What Is The Difference Between Tmd And Tmj?

November 30, 2020

There are abbreviations for a lot of different medical conditions, so it is easy to get confused over what they are and what they mean. This is especially the case when two terms are very similar. One of the most obvious examples of this is TMJ and TMD. You've probably heard of at least one of these, but do you think that they are one and the same thing? If so, you aren't alone. These terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some distinct similarities and differences between the two. Let's explore these further.

What's TMJ?

TMJ refers to a physical structure within the body - the temporomandibular joint. There are two of these joints, one on each side of the face, just in front of each war. The TMJ is a ball and socket joint that connects the lower mandible (jaw) to the skull, providing it with the day to day functionality that we often take for granted.If you hold a finger to the area about an inch in front of each ear and open and close your mouth, you should be able to feel the joint moving. The TMJ is considered to be one of the most complex joints within the body since it facilitates a number of different movements, including side to side, forwards and down and rotation. For patients without TMJ problems, the jaw joints should work smoothly and comfortably, without stiffness and pain. However, if there are any issues with the joint, you may then go on to develop TMD.

What's TMD?

TMD actually stands for \u2018temporomandibular joint disorder' and is used to describe a medical condition whereby a patient is experiencing problems with their TMJ that has resulted in a range of symptoms; some of which may be painful and debilitating. Fortunately, TMD is a largely treatable condition, meaning that patients who are diagnosed with it can receive help and support to restore the function of their joint and eliminate their symptoms.

Symptoms of TMD

  • Persistent headaches, especially first thing in the morning
  • Persistent earache or tinnitus
  • A feeling like your ears are blocked
  • Pain in the muscles in your face, particularly those around your jaw
  • Clicking, popping or grinding noises when you move your jaw, such as when eating or yawning
  • Swelling of the face and/or neck
  • Pain or stiffness when opening and/or closing the jaw

Causes of TMD

There are a variety of factors that can contribute towards someone developing TMD. Three of the more common causes of the disorder include:
  • Osteoarthritis. A degenerative condition that causes the cartilage protecting bones to break down so that they can no longer move as smoothly. This triggers swelling, inflammation and damage to the joints in the body, including the TMJ.
  • Bruxism. This condition is characterized by the subconscious or unconscious clenching or grinding of the teeth. This can lead to tooth erosion and a number of other dental issues. It also places pressure on the joint and can lead to TMD. People who are stressed are more likely to experience bruxism and subsequently suffer from TMD.
  • Orthodontic problems. The way your teeth come together than affect the function of your jaw joint and lead to TMD.

For many patients, the underlying cause of their TMD may never be established. Fortunately, most can still benefit from treatment. There are a range of potential treatments, from drug-free therapies such as joint massage, warm compresses, and orthodontic solutions, to medications to control inflammation and discomfort. Your dentist will be able to advise you which treatments would be best for you to try.If you are experiencing the symptoms and effects of TMD, or if you have questions about TMJ and TMD, don't hesitate to contact our knowledgeable, friendly dental team by calling (719) 215-5869 (Salida) or 970-453-4244 (Breckenridge).