How many times have you heard someone say, “I have TMJ”? There’s a lot of confusion out there about the differences between “TMJ” and “TMD.” Let’s set the record straight.
What is TMD, anyway?
Many people have never heard the term “TMD,” but it is the most common form of jaw pain and inflammation that affects millions of people. TMD stands for temporomandibular disorder, and it refers to a problem with the temporomandibular joint, or the TMJ.
TMD symptoms include jaw pain and problems with chewing and talking, but they go well beyond the jaw. They may also include trouble sleeping, back and neck pain, ear aches, and headaches. There’s also a behavioral and mental aspect of depression and anxiety that can affect anyone dealing with a health problem that involves chronic pain.
TMJ – the common name for TMD
Many people think TMJ is the same thing as TMD. Although TMJ is the more commonly used term, it is technically not as accurate as saying TMD when describing jaw discomfort. Referring to a jaw problem as TMJ is not telling the whole story. TMJ is really just an abbreviation for the joint itself, not for the ailment or condition of TMJ pain and inflammation. But because TMJ has become a household term, many people use it to describe a problem with their TMJ. More accurately, it may be called a TMJ disorder, or TMJ syndrome.
What’s in a name?
Perhaps what’s more important than the correct term is to know and understand the symptoms of TMD so it can be diagnosed and treated early. This means less pain and suffering and less chance of long-term damage to the extremely important jaw joint. Don’t dismiss jaw pain, teeth grinding, headaches, and other TMD symptoms. More often than not, they do not go away on their own without treatment.
TMD is a major health problem that can severely affect quality of life. It needs much more respect and attention than a simple store-bought bite splint or a bottle of pain reliever. If you’ve been experiencing jaw pain, headaches, or other symptoms of TMD, this is not normal. And if you’ve been told that it will just go away or that you simply need to relieve stress, you deserve better. Check out our previous blog post, “How long does TMJ pain last?” to get the facts about this condition.
The best way to get back to your life without the pain of TMD is to talk with the right medical professionals. You need comprehensive care from a doctor who knows how to treat TMD and to address your individual case so you can get the best possible results.