Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

What is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)?

Your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. It allows us to move our jaws up and down, and side to side. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. It allows us to talk, chew, and yawn. Disorders involving the TMJ are called temporomandibular disorders, or TMD. TMD can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.

What causes TMD?

TMD can be caused by injuries to the jaw, TMJ, or muscles of your head and neck, like a heavy blow or whiplash. Other causes include:

  • Grinding or clenching of your teeth. This puts a lot of pressure on the joint.
  • Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket.
  • Arthritis in the joint.
  • Stress, which can cause you to tighten muscles in the face and jaw or clench the teeth.


TMD can cause severe pain and discomfort. Signs and symptoms of TMD may include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the face, joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth.
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth.
  • Swelling on the side of the face.
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the joint when opening or closing.

TMD can be temporary or it can last for many years. It can also affect one or both sides of your face. It is most common in those between 20 to 40 years old and is more common in women than in men.


There are many conditions that have similar symptoms as TMJ, such as tooth decay, sinus problems, arthritis, or gum disease.

Your doctor will example your TMJ for pain/tenderness and listen for clicks, pops, or grating sounds when you move them. They will also observe the range of motion in your jaw.


In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders may go away without treatment. If your symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend a variety of treatment options, often more than one to be done at the same time.

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