TMD refers to temporomandibular joint disorders. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint connecting the jawbone to the rest of the skull. The use of the TMJ allows us to speak and chew. At Yelena Popkova, DDS in Merrimack, NH, we see many cases of TMD with varying levels of severity.
Many things can lead to TMD. Direct trauma to the face is a common cause. People who grind their teeth are also at risk of developing TMD. Spasms of the jaw muscles can also lead to pain and TMD. Trying to avoid these risk factors can help people maintain healthy TMJs.
At Yelena Popkova, DDS, we usually like to start with conservative treatment for most patients before going for more interventional therapies. For TMJ, we start by prescribing mild painkillers like NSAIDs and muscle relaxants.
We also recommend that you don’t set your chin on hard objects or even your hands. Pressure from hard objects on the chin can add more stress to the joints. Those who grind their teeth are advised to wear mouthguards in their sleep to limit the grinding and protect the teeth as well as the TMJs.
For many people, conservative treatment is usually sufficient.
People who don’t respond to conservative treatment will require more invasive treatments. For example, we might need to aspirate the joint using a needle to remove excess fluid and analyze it. The injection of corticosteroids into the joint is also common to control severe inflammation.
Surgery to fix an underlying problem with the bones or soft tissue in the joints is the final treatment. Surgery can be done through a large incision, known as open surgery, or through a small incision and an endoscopy, known as arthroscopy.
We try to use arthroscopy for most patients who need surgery, but unfortunately, open surgery is still sometimes required.
TMD can cause serious limitations. Our goal isn’t just to take the pain away but also to treat whatever it is that caused the problem in the first place. We care about our clients living lives without limitations.