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Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

Signs and symptoms
Temporomandibular disorders can have many different signs and symptoms that range in severity. Some patients may experience symptoms without any apparent loss of function. Specific symptoms may include:

Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

  • pain in or around the ear
  • tender jaw muscles
  • clicking or popping noises in the jaw
  • difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • pain when yawning or chewing
  • jaw joints that feel as if they are "locked," "stuck" or they "go out"
  • headaches

How the jaw joints and muscles work
The joints and muscles on each side of your jaw help open and close the mouth. These joints move in many different directions. They allow you to chew, talk, and swallow.

The two temporomandibular joints are among the most complex joints in the body. They work together in a delicate balance with muscles, ligaments, cartilage and your jaw bones. When a problem prevents these parts from working together properly, pain may result.

What causes TMD?
Several conditions may be associated with TMD. This often makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of a particular case of TMD. Related conditions may include:

  • injuries to the jaw or head
  • diseases of the muscles or joints, such as arthritis
  • bite problems (teeth don't fit together properly)
  • stress

To determine how best to treat your condition, a thorough evaluation is recommended. Your dentist may check the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving. Your complete medical history may be reviewed, so it is important to keep your dental office record up-to-date. Your dentist may take x-rays and may make a model of your teeth to see how your bite fits together. Your dentist may also request specialized x-rays for the TM joints.