Do I suffer from a TMD (temporomandibular disorder)?

Updated: Jul 29, 2019

Do you have frequent headaches, earaches, tender jaw muscles or a dull, aching facial pain? Does your jaw lock or stray to one side when you open your mouth?

These aches and pain may be related to the joint in your jaw, called temporomandibular joint or TMJ, and the muscles that work to move the joint. These painful conditions are often called TMD for temporomandibular disorders.

How your jaw joints and muscles work

The TMJ and muscles on each side of your jaw help open and close your mouth. These joints move in many different directions. They allow you to chew, talk, and swallow.

These two joints are among the most complex joints in the body. They work together in a delicate balance with muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and your jawbones. When a problem prevents these parts from working together properly, pain may result.

Signs and symptoms of TMD

A temporomandibular disorder is a condition, not a specific disease. TMD can have many different signs and symptoms, from mild to severe. Some people may have symptoms but are still able to function in their everyday lives fully. TMD appear to be more common in women. Specific symptoms may include:

  • pain in or around the ear

  • tender jaw muscles clicking or popping noises in the jaw

  • difficulty opening or closing the mouth

  • pain when yawning or chewing

  • jaw joints that feel as if they are "locked," "stuck," or they "go out"

  • headaches

Several conditions may be linked with TMD, and thus, it's often difficult to pinpoint the cause of a particular case of TMD. Related conditions may include:

  • jaw or head injuries

  • diseases that affect the muscles or joints,

  • such as arthritis tooth grinding

  • anxiety and/or stress

To determine how best to treat your condition, we recommend a complete evaluation. Your Metro dentist may:

  • check your jaw joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping, or difficulty moving.

  • review your medical history, so it is crucial to keep your dental office records up to date.

  • take X-rays and make a model of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.

Treatment options for TMD

For some patients, TMD may disappear by themselves. For others, they may come and go, or may worsen over time. TMD are often managed, rather than cured.

The success of the treatment often depends upon you and your dentist working together to find what works best to relieve your symptoms.

Treatment may involve a series of steps. The step-by-step plan allows you to try a simple procedure before moving on to more involved treatment. Experts generally recommend a "less is often best" approach to treating TMD.

These self-care practices may be recommended:

  • eating softer foods or avoiding foods that cause symptoms

  • minimise extreme jaw movements, such as yawning, yelling, or singing

  • avoid chewing gum

  • reducing the pain with heat or ice packs

  • practising relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation

If necessary, your dentist may recommend these options to relieve your symptoms:

  • exercises to strengthen jaw muscles

  • medicines to reduce pain or inflammation, or to help you relax

  • a night guard or bite plate to decrease clenching or grinding your teeth

In some cases, your dentist may recommend fixing an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Orthodontic treatment may also be recommended.


American Dental Association

Australian Dental Association

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