Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD,TMJ)

The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of each ear. It lets you move your jaw up and down and side to side, so you can talk, chew and yawn.

Problems with your jaw and the muscles in your face that control it are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD). But you may hear it wrongly called TMJ, after the joint.

What causes TMD?

The cause of TMD is unknown. Dentists believe symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of your jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.

Injury to your jaw, the joint, or the muscles of your head and neck can lead to TMD. Other causes include:

  • Grinding or clenching your teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the joint

  • Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint

  • Arthritis in the joint

  • Stress, which can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth


Traditional Treatments include:

  • Medications. NSAIDs if you need them for pain and swelling. A muscle relaxer to relax your jaw if you grind or clench your teeth. Or an anti-anxiety medication to relieve stress, which may bring on TMD. In low doses they can also help reduce or control pain.

  • A splint or night guard. This plastic mouthpiece fits over your upper teeth so they don't touch. This lessens the effects of clenching or grinding.

  • Dental work. The dentist can replace missing teeth and use crowns, bridges or braces to balance the biting surfaces of your teeth or to correct a bite problem.

  • Other. Alternative treatments also exist.