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How Do I Know if I Have TMJ or TMD?

I’m at a loss. I’ve been doing some research and have narrowed it down to two conditions, but I can’t tell the difference between them so don’t know who to see.
Here are my symptoms:

  • Jawpain
  • Headaches
  • Clicking in jaw
  • Teeth have shifted

Do I have TMJ or TMD? Who do I see for it?

Marilyn

Dear Marilyn,

A Chart showing how joints muscles and teeth all work together in TMJ

I understand why you’re confused. These two acronyms are used interchangeably. TMD stands for Temporomandibular Disorder. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint. When the joint is out of alignment, which can happen for several reasons as seen in the chart above, it causes TMD.

Your symptoms are pointing to this disorder, whether you call it TMJ or TMD. You’ll want to see a dentist, but not just any dentist. First, not all dentists treat it because it is so complex. Secondly, some do treat it who shouldn’t. You really want a dentist who’s invested significant training in diagnosing and treating this disorder. As an example, look at Dr. Burba’s TMJ Dentist credentials. This is the type of dentist you want to find in your area.

What to Look for in TMJ Treatment

Because TMJ is so complex, it is imperative your dentist finds the underlying cause of your TMJ in order to begin proper treatment. You also want to start with the least invasive treatment possible. For instance, if it turns out your problem has stemmed from nighttime grinding, the first thing to do is protect your teeth from any further damage.

From there, you can take up repairing the damage. Maybe your teeth are ground down to nubs and you need dental crowns. Or possibly, your teeth have been pushed out of place and you need Invisalign to realign your bite. Maybe you need a combination. The key is a dentist who knows what to look for.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Randall Burba.