What is “TMJ” TMD?

There is much confusion about this disease by both patients and doctors.   First on the list is the name.  “TMJ” is the name of the joints that attach the jaw to the skull. One on the right side of the head and one on the left side of the head.  These joints work together in unison so the jaw can move forward, backward, right, and left in order to speak, sing, swallow, and chew our food.  The joints, muscles, and nerves of the jaw are very complex mechanisms.  Calling the disease “TMJ” is like saying I have “Knees” when you go the orthopedic surgeon complaining that your knees hurt.

The proper name is “TMD”, (Temporomandibular Joint Disease) or (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder).

For the most part, patients and doctors alike continue to call the problem “TMJ”.

The confusion starts with the fact that TMD is not the same set of symptoms for everyone. There definitely is a recognized set of symptoms, but different patients have different symptoms and the symptoms they do have are not always constant, they come and go.  Furthermore, many of the symptoms of TMD are also symptoms of many other diseases or disorders in and around the head and neck.  You can begin to see why patients and doctors are often confused when dealing with TMD.

So what is TMD.  Unlike heart disease that has many variations and types and just as many causes and related physiologic and pathologic factors, TMD is actually quite simple.  There is a single common denominator that causes all the seemingly unrelated symptoms of TMD.  That common denominator is inflammation within the interior or inside the joint.  This can easily be demonstrated by the fact that when you relieve or decrease the inflammation within the temporomandibular joint ALL the symptoms of TMD will eventually subside and diminish. If you can make the inflammation go away, you can make each and every one of the symptoms go away. Pretty simple.  But first you have to understand why the joints become inflamed, and then how to decrease the inflammation.  I’ll answer those questions in subsequent blogs.

Back to the initial question.  What is “TMJ” TMD?

“TMJ” TMD is a list of seemingly disrelated, disparate symptoms caused by the common denominator, INFLAMMATION, within the joint itself.  The well accepted and disparate symptoms of TMD are:

Headache

Earache

Neck and Upper Back Pain

Jaw Pain

Tinnitus (Ringing and Buzzing of the Ears)

Fullness in the Ears (Subjective Hearing Loss)

Vertigo (Dizziness)

Shoulder and Upper Arm Pain and Tightness

Arm/Hand/Finger Tingling and Numbness

Various Types of Jaw Locking and Inability to Open Widely

Various Feelings of Numbness and Tingling about the Face

Feeling Like your Teeth don’t Fit Together Evenly

Tooth Pain

These are the well documented and agreed upon symptoms of TMD.  Not everyone with TMD experiences all these symptoms.  Some patients just have a few, and some have many.  And some unfortunate patients experience all of these symptoms.  And each of these symptoms come and go with irregular frequency.

NO WONDER EVEYBODY’S CONFULSED.

So what is TMD?

Here is the answer.

TMD is:  A disparate list of symptoms directly caused by inflammation within the temporomandibular joint.

Simple.  That’s it.  It’s that simple.

Now that you know what TMD is, next time I’ll cover the things that cause inflammation in the joint.  Guess what.  Those are simple too.

Till next time.

 

 

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