tmdTMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) means that the hinge connecting the upper and lower jaw isn’t working properly. This hinge is one of the most complex joints in the body and is responsible for moving the lower jaw forward, backward and side-to-side. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working as it should is called TMD. The exact cause of this misalignment is often impossible to determine and can cause a range of symptoms such as:

  • headaches, especially in the morning
  • earaches, especially in the morning
  • migraines, especially in the morning
  • tinnitus (ringing sound in the ears)
  • neck and shoulder pain
  • cracking, popping or grating sounds when opening or closing the mouth
  • jaw pain or tenderness
  • trouble or discomfort biting or chewing
  • dizziness
  • Causes

Anything that places undue strain on the temporomandibular disorder may contribute to TMd. These include, but are not limited to:

  • bruxism (unconscious grinding or clenching of teeth)
  • trauma such as a blow to the jaw
  • degenerative joint disease such as osteoarthritis
  • excessive nail biting or gum chewing
  • misalignment of the jaw or teeth (bad bite)
  • Treatment

The first step in treatment is thorough examination of the patient’s jaw and also their history to determine what’s causing TMD. Treatment may include one or more different approaches depending on the cause:

Splints (mouth guards) – if bruxism is causing TMD, nighttime mouth guards can reduce clenching in some patients.

Relaxation therapies – bruxism may be caused or worsened by periods of high stress; TMJ treatment may include therapies to reduce or deal with stress.