The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have a dual role in serving the public’s need for accurate, up-to-date health information. Of course, the institutes sponsor and conduct important research to advance the frontiers of our understanding. But there’s another important role they play in making sure the public gets the results of this research. The NIH tries to deliver this research not just as scholarly research papers, but also as digestible common language primers. This information is supposed to counter the widespread misinformation that people encounter online.

In order to make sure their information is up-to-date, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) has recently updated their primer on temporomandibular joint disorders (typically abbreviated TMJ, but sometimes TMD). Much of the information is unchanged, but some new sections have been added, and the material’s been reorganized.

A Bite-Size Introduction

One of the biggest changes is a new landing page for the TMJ section. In the past, the TMJ page was thousands of words long, divided into many sections. It was certainly full of information, but it was a lot to get through.

With the new design, the landing page is very small, just over 100 words long. It provides a brief overview focusing on the new understanding of TMJ as a group of disorders. Unlike recent years, the research community has agreed on a basic classification of these disorders into three categories, which the NIDCR summarizes on the intro page:

  • Myofascial pain– discomfort in the jaw muscles
  • Joint derangement–dislocated jaw, displacement of the cushioning disc, and/or injury to the bones
  • Arthritis–degenerative or inflammatory joint disorders affecting the joint

The NIDCR also notes that people can have more than one of these disorders. And the introductory section includes the estimate that TMJ affects more than 10 million Americans. It concludes with the note that “These conditions appear to be more common in women than men.” This is a nice phrasing, because that certainly appears to be the case, but there are some arguments that this appearance may be deceiving.

More Information Available

Although the introductory page is very brief, the NIDCR content doesn’t cut off there. Instead, it offers access to more informations if you want it. There is a basic link to an expanded introduction, which is a pared-down version of the NIDCR’s old page. Instead of being about 2500 words, the new page is under 1000. This definitely makes the information more accessible. It appears that most of the editing was focused on removing references to information that was uncertain or unconfirmed.

The page also links to two different pamphlets that provide even more information. The first is the NIDCR’s “Less Is Often Best in Treating TMJ Disorders.” This pamphlet reminds us to favor reversible TMJ treatments rather than those that create permanent changes to the teeth or jaws.
The second is a 20-page booklet on TMJ, available in English and Spanish.

The total amount of information is considerable, and the new format makes this information easier to access. So it seems like a good place for people to start learning about this condition.

Get Information about Your Condition

What the NIDCR can’t do–what no website can do–is look at your symptoms and conditions and tell whether you have TMJ, what types, and how it can be treated. For that, you need a TMJ dentist who can perform a comprehensive evaluation of your teeth and jaws.

If you want more information about whether you have TMJ and how to get relief in Columbia, SC, please call (803) 781-9090 today for an appointment at Smile Columbia Dentistry.