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Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) (cont.)

Exams and Tests

Currently there is no widely accepted standard test for identifying the cause of temporomandibular disorders (TMDs). But your dentist or doctor will most likely be able to accurately diagnose your condition with information from a medical history and physical exam.

Most TMDs are caused or made worse by muscle tension (tightness). Expect your doctor to suggest treatment that does not involve surgery or permanent changes to the jaw (conservative treatment) to relieve your jaw pain, muscle tension, and TM joint problems.

If you have sudden pain after a facial or jaw injury, your doctor is likely to order some type of imaging test, such as an X-ray, a CT scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

If conservative treatment has not worked

If conservative treatment has not worked and your jaw is locking in place (a sign of disc displacement), your pain is severe or chronic, or you have other medical problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, other tests may be needed. These tests are usually done only if knowing their results could change your recommended treatment plan.

If you still have symptoms after the first period of treatment, your doctor may begin to look for problems in the jaw joint structure. Other tests may include:

  • X-ray. This test can confirm whether the bones are worn away, broken, or disfigured. If disc displacement is suspected, X-rays may be helpful to show the size of the joint space. A narrow joint space can be a sign that the disc is affected.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A view of the soft tissues (ligaments, muscles, and articular disc) is useful in showing disc displacement or damage. Although expensive, MRI is thought to be the most effective imaging technique for assessing TMDs that may involve disc problems.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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