Understanding TMD

One of the most common symptoms of dental issues is persistent pain in the jaw. Such pain is often linked to infections, abscesses, and other teeth-related issues. Yet it can also be a sign that you are suffering from the condition called temporomandibular joint disorder--more commonly referred to as TMD. If you would like to increase your understanding of this common malady, read on. This article will provide a useful introduction to the topic of TMD.

The Causes

TMD is not linked to one particular cause, a fact which can make it a difficult problem for doctors and dentists to accurately diagnose. In its most common manifestation, TMD is the result of abnormal and/or prolonged stresses being exerted on the various muscles located near the temporomandibular joint--in other words, the joint that hinges your jaw to your skull.


Unfortunately, the stresses alluded to above can themselves take a variety of different forms. These may encompass physical, habitual, and mental stresses. Dental malocclusion is one of the most commonly encountered causes in the former category. This disorder is characterized by bottom and top teeth that are not able to line up correctly. As a result, different amounts of pressure are exerted on different areas of the jaw.


TMD may also have a behavioral cause. This is often the case when a patient has developed the poor habit of chewing food with one side of their mouth. Often this is tied to other dental problems. For instance, those with a painful untreated cavity on one side of their mouth often end up dealing with TMD, since they will naturally begin favoring the non-cavity side when chewing.


Finally, TMD often arises as the result of mental and/or emotional stress. Many people respond to these stresses by tightening up their facial muscles. This can greatly increase the amount of force being exerted on the temporomandibular joint. Relaxation and therapeutic techniques are often successful at alleviating TMD caused by mental issues.

Other Symptoms

Pain is the characteristic symptom of TMD, and is a ubiquitous presence in almost all cases of the disorder. Yet it is hardly the only way to tell that you might be suffering from TMD. There are a wide range of attendant symptoms, which can include:

  • trouble opening the mouth
  • jaws that click and/or pop when opening
  • chewing discomfort
  • persistent earaches and headaches
  • increased sensitivity to bright lights

Be sure to mention any such symptoms to your dentist. If they feel that TMD may be the cause of the problem, they will suggest some possible courses of action, and may also refer you to an MD for more detailed diagnosis.