Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic facial and neck pain as well as recurring headaches. While both of these conditions can be symptoms of many issues, in some cases, this pain is due to Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD, which affects your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) that connect your lower jawbone to your skull.

These joints get a lot of use during the day as you speak, eat, drink, sing, swallow and yawn. Because of this, an issue in these joints can cause pain all over your face and neck, resulting in headaches, facial pain or restricted jaw movement.


Causes of Temporomandibular Disorder

In many cases, it can be difficult to determine the underlying cause of TMD. The temporomandibular joint may become damaged for any number of reasons, often occurring simultaneously, from genetics to facial trauma.

Any or a multiple of the following causes and risk factors may impact your chances of developing TMD:

  • Misalignment of the shock-absorbing disc
  • Arthritis damage to the cartilage around the joint such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Trauma or impact to the jaw, in the past or present
  • Bruxism or teeth grinding
  • Genetics
  • Preexisting dental problems
  • Connective tissue diseases that cause problems affecting the temporomandibular joint

Symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorder

The most common symptom of TMD is pain in the jaw area, as well as a reduction in mobility or function of the jaw. This pain could be mild, or it could be having a significant impact on your day-to-day life, affecting your ability to speak, eat or sleep.

Patients may find that certain activities such as speaking and signing become difficult due to limited jaw mobility or that certain foods such as steak, chips, or candy become almost unbearably uncomfortable to eat. In the same way that there are many potential causes for TMD, many of the symptoms will also overlap with other conditions, and they will vary in severity even on a daily basis.

Other symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain in the face or jaw area
  • Ringing, stuffiness or pain within the ears
  • Frequent head or neck aches
  • Clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw
  • Facial swelling
  • Changes in the alignment of your top and bottom teeth
  • Locked jaw or limited mobility when opening your mouth

Prevention, Diagnosis And Treatment

If you believe you may have TMD, call Earwood Dentistry to schedule a consultation. Our expert team will help indicate the presence of TMD and create an effective treatment tailored specifically to your needs. At your consultation, our team will analyze your jaw function and perform any additional examinations or scans to rule out significant disease or the need for more advanced treatment.

There are a few simple steps you can take at home or at work to prevent your TMD from becoming more severe or to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This may not entirely prevent TMD from developing, but it may help diminish the symptoms and prevent the problem from developing further.

Consider doing the following to keep your jaw joints healthy and pain-free:

  • Relax your jaw, holding your lips together with your teeth apart
  • Avoid grinding your teeth
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Use headphones or hold the phone to your ear when you are on a phone call as opposed to cradling the receiver between your head and shoulder
  • Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth
  • Do not sit with your chin rested on your hand
  • Practice good posture with your head up, back straight and shoulders squared


To learn more about temporomandibular disorder, TMD, call our practice at (919) 847-8413 or schedule a consultation online.

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