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Understanding TMD and What to do About it

By Mina Levi, DDS, 04/03/2014

About five to twelve percent of the world population suffers from temporomandibular joint dysfunction or temporomandibular disorder (TMD). This describes a variety of conditions affecting the joints, muscles, and nerves in the jaw. In this article, we discuss what TMD is, what causes it and what to do about it if you have it.

Jaw Pain San Francisco

What are the temporomandibular joints?

The temporomandibular joints are located on either side of your face right in front of your ears, and connect your lower jaw to your skull. These joints and their accompanying muscles allow you to open and close your mouth, as well as allow you to move your lower jaw from side to side. These joints are easily felt by placing your hands in front of your ears and opening and closing your mouth.

What is TMD?

TMD occurs when the temporomandibular joints are damaged in some way, or when the muscles accompanying the joint are not working properly, which causes an imbalance in jaw movement. Painful chronic muscle pain and spasms are associated with this disorder.

What causes TMD?

A lot of the time, the cause underlying TMD is unclear. TMD may be caused by trauma like an injury or dislocation, or an improper bite, which affects the chewing muscles. Stress behaviors like clenching and grinding teeth may make the condition worse. TMD appears to be more common in women than men.

Signs and Symptoms of TMD

Those who suffer from TMD may experience the following symptoms:

         Jaw pain/soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or in the evening

         Jaw pain that is aggravated by chewing, biting or yawning

         Clicking noises when opening and/or closing the mouth

         Difficulty opening and closing the mouth

         Locking or stiff jaw

         Tooth sensitivity not associated with other dental problems such as decay or restorative work

         Headaches or neck pain


The dentist can perform an examination of the joints and muscles of your jaw if you feel that you may be suffering from any of these symptoms or think that you may have TMD.

How is TMD treated?

Some TMD cases can be handled with these lifestyle modifications:

         Avoiding chewing gum and biting of the nails

         Eating softer foods

         Stress relief techniques

         Taking non-aspirin pain relievers to manage pain

In more severe TMD cases, the dentist will most likely recommend physical therapy, appliance therapy, or medication.

Is TMD permanent?

TMD is a cyclical condition that can recur during times of stress. If you have this disorder, make sure to see the San Francisco dentist for regular checkups so that your symptoms can be monitored and your special care can be managed. For more information about TMD or the signs and symptoms of TMD, visit Dr. Mina Levi DDS on the web at or give us a call at (415) 513-5066.

Topics: TMD, TMJ, TMD disorder, clenching and grinding, night guards, appliance therapy, physical therapy, dental restorations, tooth sensitivity, headaches, earaches, jaw pain, San Francisco dentist, dental problems, dental decay, dental cavities, temporomandibular joints, mandibular joints, jaw problems, jaw clicking, jaw popping

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