Do you hear clicking or popping sounds when you open or close your jaw? Has your jaw joint ever felt like it was “stuck” in the open or closed position? Do you experience soreness or stiffness in your jaw after you awaken in the morning, or recurring pain in the muscles of the cheeks, neck or temples? If so, you may be experiencing the symptoms of a Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD.
TMD is the name for a group of conditions that are characterized by pain and dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), where the jaw bone (mandible) meets the temporal bone (a part of the skull.) In fact, the condition is often incorrectly called “TMJ” — but TMJ actually refers to the joint itself. Everyone has two of them, one left and one right, but not everyone has TMD.
Like other joints, the TMJ is subject to stresses, inflammation, and disk problems. Any of these, along with other issues like nighttime tooth grinding, may cause TMD. But correctly diagnosing this condition and finding an effective treatment isn’t always easy. It used to be thought that aggressive treatments like orthodontics or bite adjustment were necessary to relieve the symptoms. Today, we recognize that more conservative therapies, like massage or wearing a night guard, are effective in most cases.