How Do You Diagnose TMJ? | Dr. Marc Gordon

How Do You Diagnose TMJ?

Team TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder is a condition affecting the jaw. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the location on each side of the head where the lower jaw connects to the skull. It is located right in front of each ear. When problems develop within the joint, it is called TMJ disorder or TMD. 

How do you know if you have TMJ disorder? Who do you see for an official diagnosis? Learn the signs and symptoms of TMD and what to do if you have them. 

What is TMJ Disorder? 

One or both of the temporomandibular joints can become inflamed or damaged due to a variety of causes. Grinding habits, chewing hard foods, facial trauma, significant malocclusion, and even arthritis can lead to the development of TMJ disorder. These situations can cause swelling, inflammation, and tension in the TMJ and the muscles of the face that are associated with it. When the muscles are affected as well, the muscular pain/ tightness is called Myofascial Pain Dysfunction (MPD).

Signs and Symptoms of TMJ and MPD Disorders 

  • Pain in the location of the TMJ or in the jaw overall. 
  • Pain when chewing. 
  • Limited range of motion in the jaw (mouth won’t open very wide). 
  • Headaches, especially in the temple region of the head.
  • Tightness of the facial muscles which can extend to the head and neck
  • Clicking or popping sound when moving your jaw. 

If you have any one or a combination of these symptoms there’s a good chance that what you are experiencing is these disorders. 

Who Diagnoses TMJ / MPD Issues? 

TMJ / MPD disorder is most often diagnosed by dentists and periodontists. Periodontists specialize in conditions affecting the support structures for the teeth, including the jaw, making them specially qualified for TMJ diagnosis and treatment. If you think you may have TMJ disorder, call a periodontist to discuss your symptoms and schedule an evaluation. 

How is TMJ /MPD Disorder Treated? 

There are a few ways to treat TMJ disorder. Here are the options starting with the most basic treatment for mild cases and progressing to more advanced treatment for severe cases:

  • Basic treatment: At the first sign of TMJ symptoms, start by applying ice to the sides of the face in the location of the joint to reduce swelling and inflammation. Rest your jaw as much as possible by eating a soft or liquid diet and avoiding unnecessary conversation. You can also take anti-inflammatory pain medication to reduce inflammation and manage pain. 
  • Moderate treatment: If basic treatment does not provide relief in a few days to a week, contact a periodontist. After a brief evaluation and discussion of your symptoms, additional treatment may be applied, such as injectable medication. You may also be given a bite splint to wear that will help keep your jaw in proper alignment. Sometimes, the bite is adjusted if the tooth contacts are contributing to the disorder.
  • Advanced treatment: If treatment does not provide relief of your severe symptoms, the last resort is surgically addressing the joint directly. This is unusual and is only provided in the most serious of TMD issues.  

Conditions That Can Cause Misdiagnosis of TMJ Disorder: 

TMJ disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed as another condition and sometimes other conditions are misdiagnosed as TMJ disorder. The following are commonly confused conditions: 

  • Tension headaches. Often a tension headache will resonate in the temple region of the head, which can seem like TMJ disorder when it isn’t. On the other hand, TMJ disorder is sometimes diagnosed as tension headache. 
  • Migraines. Similar to tension headaches, migraines and TMJ disorder are often confused when the pain resonates in the temple region of the head. 
  • Ear infections. Patients who have TMJ disorder often think they have an ear infection because the pain will often resonate in the ear. 

How To Get an Official Diagnosis 

If you think you may have TMJ disorder, it’s time to see a periodontist for an official diagnosis. Progressive Periodontics & Implant Dentistry provides diagnosis and treatment for TMJ disorder. Dr. Gordon has a thorough knowledge of the structure and anatomy of the jaw, allowing him to accurately diagnose and treat TMJ disorder for lasting relief. 

To learn more, contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our two convenient office locations.