TMJ is an acronym for the Temporomandibular Joint. TMJ has been used by many people through the years to actually describe TMD which is an acronym for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. So, TMJ is just the name of the joint, while TMD means that there is a disorder of the joint. TMD describes many symptoms related to the jaw and supporting structures. This disorder is a subgroup of Orofacial Pain Disorder that include many different types of pain in the head & neck. The TM Joint itself is located directly in front of the ear and is commonly called the “jaw joint”. Common symptoms of TM disorders are pain or discomfort around the ear, jaw joints, facial muscles, headaches, temple pain, throat pain, pain with opening, chewing, locking, limited opening, clicking, popping, and grating noises. If you have any of these symptoms greater than a month, you should seek treatment from your dentist.
TMJ Treatment Appliance
In almost every case of TMJ disorder, the first step in treatment is the custom fabrication and use of a bite appliance often called a biteguard, nightguard or occlusal splint. When properly fabricated by a dentist, this appliance places the lower jaw in a position that is most amenable to destressing the cartilage and musculature of the temporomandibular joint. The appliance also protects the teeth from the damage done by bruxing (grinding) and clenching. There is a tremendous difference between custom fabricated TMD appliances and over-the-counter boil and bite guards (which should only be used for protecting the teeth during contact sporting activities). Over-the-counter guards can often times cause TMD to worsen because they place the lower jaw in a position that stresses the joint and associated musculature. So, be sure to consult with Dr. Kenny if you have any questions or concerns about TMJ disorder, grinding or clenching.