Temporomandibular Disorders

Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are identified as problems that affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), otherwise known as the jaw joint, and facial muscles. The following information outlines important facts about TMDs.


Is a TMD a disease?
No. TMD is not a specific condition. It is a general term that refers to a problem with the jaw joint, similar to a problem you might have with a hip or knee joint. Some also confuse TMJ as the name of a disease. TMJ, however, is the name of the joint that is affected by a TMD.

What causes TMDs?
TMDs can be caused by the following:

  • Direct impact to jaw.
  • Prolonged teeth clenching or grinding.
  • Muscle spasms caused by tension or stress.
  • Arthritis or tumors of the TMJ.

What are symptoms of TMD?
The following are some symptoms of TMD:

  • Feelings of the jaw being stuck open or closed.
  • Clicking, popping or cracking sounds when you open or close your mouth.
  • Pain in the jaw area in front of your ear.
  • Headaches originating in front of your ear.

How are TMDs diagnosed?
The pain often associated with TMDs can be caused by sinus problems, toothaches or an early state of gum disease, making TMDs difficult to identify without professional help. Your dentist can thoroughly examine you and take X-rays to determine the cause and source of the pain.

How are TMDs treated?
The following treatments are used for TMDs:

  • Muscle relaxants.
  • Stress-reducing exercises.
  • Wearing a mouth protector to prevent grinding.
  • Bite adjustment.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Replacement of missing teeth.



National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: TMJ