TMD - Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

TMD stands for Temporomandibular Dysfunction or Disorders. This is also called TMJ. Because problems with the jaw often involves more than just the joint, TMD refers more to the whole complex, comprised of muscles, the jaw, and other related structures in the head and neck.

What causes TMD?

Some of the most common causes of TMD include:

  • Unconscious habits such as grinding or clenching the teeth
  • Trauma related to an accident or fall
  • Stress or Anxiety
  • Arthritis or a degenerative process

What is the TMJ?

The TMJ is the Temporomandibular Joint, or jaw joint. It connects the lower jaw to the skull. It is the joint which allows your jaw to move while eating, speaking, swallowing and yawning. This joint works in conjunction with the muscles of the jaw, head and neck.

The TMJ is one of the most complex yet smallest joints in the body. This joint is positioned in front of the ear on each side of head and consists of the following:

  • The Condyle: which is part of the lower jaw and allows the jaw (mandible) to move.
  • The Disc: tissue that provides a gliding surface for joint movement.
  • The condyle and disc sit in a depression in the skull which provides a place for them to rest.

TMD - Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

What are the symptoms of TMD?

Symptoms can involve the TM joint alone or more commonly are associated with other areas in the head, neck, jaw, and mostly the muscles in these areas.

Common symptoms might be:

  • Pain in the TMJ and surrounding areas
  • Unexplained headaches or facial pain
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises in the TMJ's
  • Limited mouth opening or movement
  • Difficulty or pain with chewing
  • Pain in or around the ears or ear stuffiness
  • Sinus or eye pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain

What is orofacial pain?

Orofacial pain may be discomfort or pain in the face, head, jaw, neck or even the teeth which is of an abnormal nature. This can be a muscular or a neurologic type pain of the head and face or toothache like pain in an otherwise normal condition. Sometimes TMD may be more of an orofacial pain condition that requires specific attention and care.

What about headaches?

As a dentist I can help you with determining if your headaches are related to muscle pain, TMD, or orofacial pain. If the headaches are related to the head and neck area, often I can provide some degree of assistance in treating them. If they are more complex or require a team approach, I can help direct you to others who may also be helpful.

How is a diagnosis established?

To arrive at a diagnosis a complete history and a head and neck evaluation is performed. X-rays may also be necessary. Once all of the information is collected a diagnosis is made. Following the exam a consultation is done to review the findings and a treatment plan is established. Consultation with and/or referral to other health care providers may also be necessary or recommended.