It is often difficult to diagnose temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) for various reasons. With a less than clear understanding of the causes and exact symptoms affecting TMD and the surrounding muscles, healthcare professionals may be hesitant to diagnose TMD.
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The symptoms of TMD are characteristic of a number of other conditions, which makes diagnosis often very difficult. Some other symptoms that might mimic the characteristics of TMD include:
- Sinus infection
- Ear infection
- Facial neuralgias
- Myofascial pain
If pain in the jaw area is being experienced, tests will often be recommended to rule out or confirm the presence of any conditions, including TMD.
When conducting an examination of a patient experiencing pain in the TMJ region, a detailed health history will be taken looking for any injuries, traumas, procedures or conditions that may contribute to the symptoms. Your temporomandibular joint will also be examined, along with the bones and muscles of the jaw, mouth, face, neck and head to note pain and tenderness, limited motion or locking of the jaw when opening, closing, or moving the jaw side-to-side. There is no standard, widely accepted test used to diagnose TMD, but there are several tests that might aid in the diagnostic process:
- X-rays of the face, joint and teeth
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computed tomography (CT)
While most cases of TMD cannot be cured, there are treatment options available to help prevent the worsening and pain. The underlying cause of TMD does not need to be known to provide quality care for a patient diagnosed with TMD.