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A Quick and Easy guide to Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

What is TMD?

Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are a group of more than 30 conditions that can cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement.

“TMDs” refers to the disorders, and “TMJ” refers only to the temporomandibular joint itself. People have two joints; one on each side of the head. You can feel this joints by placing your fingers in front of your ears and opening and closing your mouth.

There are three main classes of TMDs:

  1. Disorders of the joints, including disc disorders.

  2. Disorders of the muscles used for chewing (masticatory muscles).

  3. Headaches associated with a TMD.

The following 2 classes of TMD have also been suggested:

  1. Disorders of Cranial Compliance

  2. Psychogenic Disorders Associated with Facial Pain.

Classification of the 3 main Temporomandibular Disorders (TMDs) with Examples

*A person may have one or more of these conditions at the same time.

Temporomandibular disorders are twice as common in women than in men, especially in women between 35 and 44 years old. A recent study found that about 11-12 million adults in the United States had pain in the temporomandiublar region.

Temporomandibular disorders can occur alone or at the same time as other medical conditions such as headaches, back pain, sleep problems, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Why do I have a TMD problem?

Muscles, bones, recurrent ear problems, and sinus issues are a few things that can cause symptoms of TMD.

Growing research suggests a combination of genes, psychological and life stressors, and how someone perceives pain, play a big part in why a TMD starts. The way we cope with stress, anxiety, and/or depression can determine whether it will become a chronic issue, (lasting more than three months), or become recurrent when triggered. However many people that have bouts of TMD that last for only for a short period of time and resolve on its own.

Hormones and vitamin levels can also be contributing factors. Deficient Vitamin D has been shown to contribute to muscle pain.

Even certain medications can cause teeth grinding and clutching. Along with hard or excessive chewing can cause flare ups.

Is clicking and popping without pain normal?

Yes! It is important to remember that these are normal things that happen in our body. We may notice the clicking and popping more due to it being in our head and we hear these pops more than others.

What are other symptoms of TMD that someone would have and need to schedule an evaluation?

  • Pain that spreads to the face, neck, or ear.

  • Jaw stiffness with limited movement; feels difficult to open or pressure as if you can’t open or close.

  • Tenderness at the TMJ or in and around the ear.

  • Locking of the jaw; where your jaw becomes immovable until the joint is realigned.

  • Pressure within the jaw that we perceive as not being able to open or close.

  • Painful clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth.

  • Ringing in the ears or hearing loss.

  • Dizziness.

  • A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together; bite has changed.

  • Facial movement changes.

  • Sinus pain not related to infections or allergies.

  • Muscle spasms on the affected side of your face that involve the eye (twitching), cheek, and/or neck, together or separately.

  • Noticeable swelling in the TMJ and surrounding facial muscles due to inflammation.

What do I do after an evaluation and I chose to continue with treatment?

First and foremost; relax and keep an open mind. Know that if you have questions we will try our best to answer and explain it all to you. Understand that this is not a quick fix and if you have been dealing with it for years it can take longer.

Understand that if it’s not a mechanical issue (muscle or bone related); that stress, anxiety, and depression can play a big part in facial pain. Understanding how these affect your body and how you manage the psychosocial part is important.

Allow treatment to take place and discuss what options are the best for you. We understand everybody is different and everyone has different treatment needs, goals, and tolerances. If you are unsure if you will be able to tolerate a more aggressive treatment just let us know. We can start with a more conservative approach and progress to more aggressive strategies, but, understand that your treatment can take longer to reach your goals.

What is your main symptom?

  • 0%Pain in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint

  • 0%Jaw stiffness with limited movement; feels difficult to open

  • 0%Tenderness at the TMJ or in and around the ear.

  • 0%Locking of the jaw; where your jaw becomes immovable.


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