The Tulsa Orofacial Pain & Sleep Disorders Clinic - Terry R. Bennett, D.M.D.

1616 S. Denver
Tulsa, OK 74119

918-582-8651

Frequently Asked Questions

What is TMJ/TMD?

TMJ is the abbreviation used to describe your jaw joint, which is called the TemporoMandibular Joint. It is also used many times to describe a painful, and sometimes debilitating, condition. The temporomandibular joint is located directly in front of either ear where the mandible (lower jaw) hinges near the temple.  When a problem develops with this joint it is commonly referred to as TMJ or TMD (TemporoMandibular Disorder).

 

What causes TMD?

A disorder of the temporomandibular joint (TMD) may be caused by a number of different things. It may be the result of a sports injury or some type of direct trauma to the jaw. It can also be caused by an over-extension of the jaw which can happen when eating or when having dental work performed. This over-extension can stretch and/or tear the TMJ ligaments causing pain and discomfort. TMD can also be the result of deterioration of the joint, grinding of the teeth, heredity, and bad habits (nail-biting, chewing on ice, etc.).

 

Is TMD Hereditary?

Sometimes but that is not typically the case. Some patients have loose or weak ligaments in many or all of their joints including the wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, etc.  These people are more likely to have disorders of any joint, including the TMJ.  Most jaw joint dysfunctions are the result of what we do to the joint or the environment our joints function in.

 

Is TMD permanent?

Yes. Loose ligaments have lost their ability to keep the joint stable and will always remain loose.  However, that does not mean that the pain will be permanent.  It simply means that the problem may come back easier than before TMD was diagnosed.  If you have TMD, you should avoid doing anything that would stretch the jaw and aggravate the ligament.

 

What can I do to keep TMD pain from coming back?

Avoid activities that will put the jaw in an abnormal position. To keep the pain from returning, avoid doing things that shifts the jaw too far sideways, like leaning your chin on your hand or cradling a phone. If you eat hard candies and ice, let them melt in your mouth instead of biting into them. When getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist, take a break every few minutes. Don’t hold your mouth open wide for the entire time. When you’re finished at the dentist, massage your chewing muscles before stiffness sets in.  You should also watch your posture.  Looking down for long periods of time can tense up the neck muscles and pull the jaw backwards, hurting both your neck and your TMJ areas.

 

Can children get TMD?

Yes, but it is not as common.  Children can withstand physical punishment more than adults. An injury to a child may result in the TMD pain showing up many years down the road while an adult may feel pain a week or so after an injury. An adult may sprain the jaw joint and begin to have pain days, weeks, or even months later because the jaw muscles get tired of keeping the TMJ structures away from the injured area of the joint.  A child may sprain the jaw joint and not experience any pain but it may impact the growth, development, and balancing of the jaws causing the TMJ pain to surface many years later.



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