Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

Head, neck and facial pain affects a significant percentage of the population (one in every four Americans) seeking care for both acute and chronic pain.  The majority of TMD sufferers are women, although men, young children and adolescents are also affected.   

Symptoms are:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Locking or limited opening of your mouth
  • Clicking, popping, grating sounds in your jaw
  • Dizziness
  • Ear and facial pain
  • Neck pain or stiffness

Possible causes are:

  • Trauma - Strains, sprains and injuries to the jaw can lead to both pain and dysfunction.
  • Improper Occlusion - When teeth do not fit together properly, it causes sustained microtrauma to the joints.  When this condition is prolonged, the body begins to compensate by involving muscles in other areas (i.e. neck, throat and upper back)
  • Muscle Hyperactivity - This goes hand-in-hand with internal jaw joint problems.  Any condition that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones and joints from working together in harmony can contribute to TMD.  Various ways this system can be disrupted include trauma, connective tissue disorders, arthritis or skeletal malformation.
  • Posture - Poor posture places unnecessary wear and tear on all the joints including the jaw joints.  Over time, consequences of postural neglect can be as damaging as an injury.
  • Stress - Increased physical and emotional stress is another factor that impacts patients with TMD as it reduces the adaptive capabilities of the jaw.  Some patients unconsciously brux and/or clench their teeth in response to increased stress.  Chronic clenching and bruxing creates strain on the TM joints and muscles which can exacerbate TMD problems.

Treatment - When an occlusion problem or tissue damage to the head and facial area is diagnosed, it is important to have an evaluation by a trained and qualified TMD dentist.  Our office performs a full examination of the TM joints, head, neck and facial region, as well as x-rays and occasionally MRI evaluation.  We are able to objectively determine the pathological nature and extent of joint sounds, injuries to the TM joint area and arrive at a realistic prognosis.  Frequently, a custom-made orthotic (splint) is prescribed for orthopedic and musculoskeletal stabilization.

  • Patients benefit from the non-surgical, conservative treatment our office provides.  Once pain is controlled and the jaw joint is stabilized, the bite is balanced so the teeth, muscles and joints all work together without strain or pain.  Initially, treatment addresses the pain.  Secondly, function is restored.  Thirdly, the patient is stabilized.  Occasionally surgery is necessary, but in less than 3% of all patients.  Because problems associated with the jaw joints can be progressive, accurate and immediate diagnosis and treatment is crucial.