November is National TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorders) awareness month. That’s good because more people need to know about this condition, which can lead to long-term dysfunction and pain that ranges from uncomfortable to disabling. 

Here are some TMJ facts to help you or a friend understand the condition and whether you need treatment for it. If you are looking for TMJ treatment in the Detroit area, TMJ dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad can help. 

young adult woman holding her head in pain while laying in bed

TMJ Can Refer to the Jaw Joint or the Joint Disorder

For decades, TMJ was used to refer primarily to the disorder. With fewer treatment options, it wasn’t necessary to have an easy abbreviated distinction between the temporomandibular joint and temporomandibular joint disorders. Researchers used TMJ to refer to the condition, then used “joint” or wrote out the joint’s full name. 

Recently, scientists decided that they needed an easy way to distinguish between the joint and the condition. So a bunch of them got together and decided that TMJ should refer to the joint and TMD should refer to the disorder. However, it’s still very common to refer to the disorder using the initials TMJ. At the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness, Detroit TMJ dentist Dr. Haddad and his staff are happy if you use either term in referring to the jaw joint or the condition. 

TMJ Has Many Symptoms

It’s important to know that TMJ has many symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms associated with TMJ include:

  • Migraines and other headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Jaw sounds like popping, clicking, and grinding
  • Irregular jaw motion
  • Limited jaw motion, even locked jaw
  • Ringing in the ears, vertigo, and other ear symptoms
  • Pain in the head, neck, back and/or shoulder. 
  • Tooth damage and wear
  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers

If you have these symptoms, TMJ might be behind them all. That is good news: TMJ treatment can sometimes resolve or reduce all the TMJ symptoms at once. 

However, every case of TMJ is unique. Detroit TMJ dentist Dr. Haddad can evaluate your particular symptoms to properly diagnose your condition. 

There Is More Than One Type of TMJ

In the past, we often talked about TMJ as one condition and couldn’t understand why certain treatments seemed to work on some patients and not on others. It turns out that part of the reason TMJ patients respond to different treatments is that they might have different types of TMJ. 

The three most widely accepted types of TMJ are:

  • Myofascial pain disorder (MPD)
  • Disc displacement (DD)
  • Degenerative joint disorder (DJD)

MPD is the most common type of TMJ. It’s related to your muscles and other soft tissue and occurs when jaw muscles get overworked and/or stressed. It mostly causes muscle pain as well as ear symptoms. 

DD occurs when the cushioning disc in the jaw joint slips out of place. This can cause irregular jaw motions, as well as an accompanying click or pop. This is the type of TMJ most likely to lead to locked jaw. 

DJD  refers to joint damage caused mostly by perpetual wear. This is osteoarthritis of the jaw joint, the most common source of DJD. However, other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, could lead to DJD. 

It’s possible to have more than one type of TMJ at the same time. Detroit TMJ dentist Dr. Haddad can help you understand which type or types you have.

People with TMJ Often Have Sleep Apnea

One critical thing to understand about TMJ is that your jaw joint is located at a crucial intersection of many of your body’s vital functions. One of these functions is your airway. 

In fact, your jaw is the main bony support for your airway between the jaw and your shoulders. So it’s no wonder that jaw dysfunction can lead to breathing problems, especially the sleep-disordered breathing condition sleep apnea

How common is sleep apnea among people with TMJ? As much as 75% of people with TMJ may have sleep apnea. Since Detroit TMJ dentist Dr. Haddad is also a sleep dentist, he can help you get treatment for both conditions. 

TMJ Is Very Common

It’s strange that most people aren’t aware of TMJ. That might not seem strange to you if you also weren’t aware of it, but TMJ is a very common condition. At any given time, 10-12% of adults in America might have the condition. With a condition this common, you’d think people would know more about it. 

TMJ Affects More Women Than Men

Although TMJ is common overall, it seems to be much more common among women. In fact, some studies say that women make up as much as 90% of people seeking treatment for the condition. 

We’re not sure why, although there are theories such as hormone connections and being differently wired for pain. 

The Cause of TMJ Isn’t Always Clear

Part of the reason why it’s hard to figure out why women are more likely to have TMJ is that we’re not always sure what causes TMJ. Sometimes, it’s something clear like jaw trauma, either a blow to the jaw or whiplash from a car accident. 

Other times, there’s no easy cause we can point to that might be behind TMJ.

Most Cases of TMJ Don’t Need Professional Care

Fortunately, although TMJ affects a large chunk of the population, the condition often resolves spontaneously with just simple home care. When you first experience TMJ symptoms, try simple home care techniques like switching to a soft diet, applying heat or cold packs, and taking over-the-counter medications. 

However, if your TMJ doesn’t resolve in a week, has disruptive symptoms, or returns with increasing frequency, it’s time to seek professional care. 

TMJ Is One of Several Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions

Sadly, many people with TMJ are affected by other types of chronic pain. People with TMJ may also experience migraines, back pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia, and more. 

Managing these pain conditions together often benefits from an interdisciplinary care team. 

At the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness, we are prepared to take a team approach to your TMJ treatment. We work with many other care professionals across the Detroit area, and we’re comfortable leading your care team or taking a supporting role. 

Noninvasive TMJ Treatment Is Best

In the past, doctors often rushed to invasive treatments for TMJ, such as surgery. However, without a good understanding of the condition, the results were often bad, making the condition worse than ever. 

Now we know better. It’s important to start with noninvasive and reversible TMJ treatments until we have enough information to specifically design treatments that are more likely to deliver good results. Among the noninvasive treatments available at the Michigan Center for TMJ and Sleep Wellness is the Summus Medical Platinum Laser. This treatment delivers a low but precisely controlled amount of heat to your skin, stimulating your body’s own healing mechanisms so that you can get better without invasive procedures. 

Learn More and Get TMJ Treatment in Detroit

Hopefully, you know a lot more about TMJ than you did before. Still think you need to know more? Detroit TMJ dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad can answer all your questions about TMJ. He can also help if you think you need TMJ treatment. 

Please call (248) 480-0085 or use our online form to request an appointment at Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness, serving the Detroit area from our location in Rochester Hills near the Sanctuary Lake Golf Course.