Temporomandiblar Joint Dysfunction (TMD)

Temporomandiblar joint dysfunction is an umbrella term often associated with:

  • Jaw Pain
  • Clicking or Popping of the Jaw
  • Muscle Pain
  • Joint (TMJ) Pain
  • Restricted Range of Motion
  • Headaches
  • Earache
  • Ringing in the Ear
  • Dizziness
  • Tenderness of ths scalp
  • Sleep disorders (clenching, grinding)
  • Numbness of the face
  • Swelling of the Temple
  • Locking or Dislocation of the Jaw

TMJ Pain

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the mandible (jaw bone) to the temporal bone (skull) through dense connective tissue and fibers. This joint is one of the most unique and complex joints in the body, acting as both a hinge and sliding joint. Within the joint the meniscus or disc allows for unique motions of the jaw when opening and closing the jaw.  The disc can become displaced when opening and closing your jaw resulting in a click or pop.

When the TMJ is out of alignment it can alter how the muscles work when opening and closing your mouth.  In most cases TMJ disorders are temporary and can be relieved with conservative treatment and home care. About 25% of the population are affected with TMJ pain at some time in their life.

Muscles Involved in TMJ Dysfunction:



Medial Pterygoid

Lateral Pterygoid

Motions Involved in the TMJ Complex:




Side to Side motion

TMJ Dysfunction

Our teeth can have a big impact when it comes to jaw pain and function.  Tooth position is favored over joint position when closing our mouth and therefore can cause altered joint and muscle mechanics when chewing.  This motion could result in muscle spasm even though the cause is not the muscles themselves.

What Causes TMJ Dysfunction:

  • Poor posture of the neck may lead to excess strain of the jaw muscles
  • Stress can increase muscle tension in the neck and jaw resulting in increased jaw clenching
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • More common in women between 20 – 45
  • Previous jaw trauma
  • Poorly positioned teeth or bite
  • Orthodontic braces


Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction

Clicking or Popping Sounds

Jaw Pain

Clicking or Popping sounds are commonly the first sign of TMJ dysfunction. The click is due to improper positioning of the disc within the joint  and is often associated with instability. This noise originates from the disc rapidly moving from a displaced position.

Jaw Pain

Pain associated with TMJ dysfunction can originate from the joint and or muscles.

  • Athralgia (joint pain) is generally related to degeneration in the joint and often results in higher amount of pain.
  • Myofascial pain (muscle pain) can originate from any muscle involved in jaw motion.  Pain may be the result of over activity in the muscle, or altered function.
  • Referred TMJ Pain is occasionally felt as headaches, earaches or toothaches.

Restricted TMJ Motion

When a deviation occurs with opening the jaw only one side is affected. When both TMJ joints are affected it is difficult to open the mouth at all. In severe cases the disc may not “click” back into place and the jaw may not close at all. This “lock jaw” would require re-location by a trained professional.