Causes of TMD


TMD stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder – a condition that affects the normal movement of the jaw. You may hear it referred to as TMJ, but this abbreviation is most often used to describe the joint itself, rather than the underlying condition. Although exact numbers are not known, it is estimated that TMD affects as many as 10 million Americans each year, causing a range of unpleasant and often painful symptoms. Thankfully, Dr. Gloria Ospina at Gables Perfect Smile can offer a quick and accurate diagnose TMD, and there are a range of successful treatments available.


What exactly is TMD?

The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. The joint itself is located at the base of the skull in front of the ear structure and is held together by ligaments originating from different parts of the head and neck. These work with the connecting muscles to support the jaw and guide how it moves.

The TMJ has two movements. Firstly, it opens like a hinge, allowing you to open and close your mouth. Secondly, it has the ability to allow the lower mandible to slide forwards and downwards. This is called translation and is the movement that allows us to eat, speak and perform functions such as yawning. When this joint fails to function properly, it is known as TMD or temporomandibular joint disorder.


What causes TMD?

There are a variety of factors that can cause TMD to develop, and the exact origin of the problem can vary from patient to patient. The severity of the condition can also fluctuate depending on what is prompting it.

Some of the most common causes of TMD include:

  • Teeth grinding. Known as bruxism, any people are affected by this condition which is characterized by the patient clenching or grinding their teeth, most often while they are asleep. Not only does this cause the teeth to erode, but it also places unnatural pressure on them and the TMJ.

  • An uneven bite. Few patients are born with a perfect bite, which is when the teeth come together perfectly when the jaw is closed. Instead, most people have an underbite (where the lower jaw sticks out further than the upper jaw), or an overbite (vice versa) which can cause uneven pressure on the TMJ.

  • Osteoarthritis. This condition is characterized by the inflammation and subsequent degeneration of the joints, including the TMJ.

  • Injury or trauma to the face, head or neck.

  • Stress. People who suffer from high or frequent stress in their life may find that they subconsciously tighten the muscles in their jaw, or clench or grind their teeth.


Symptoms of TMD

Patients who are suffering from TMD may not notice any obvious signs right away. However, over time the condition does cause a variety of symptoms, which can be experienced individually or in combination with one another. These include:

  • Persistent headaches, especially first thing in the morning

  • Persistent earache or tinnitus

  • A feeling like your ears are blocked

  • Pain in the muscles in your face, particularly those around your jaw

  • Clicking, popping or grinding noises when you move your jaw, such as when eating or yawning

  • Swelling of the face and/or neck

  • Pain or stiffness when opening and/or closing the jaw
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What treatment is available for TMD?

If Dr. Ospina has diagnosed you as suffering from TMD, then your next step will be to discuss which treatments or therapies may help alleviate the problem. There are a variety of different options available, from non-invasive therapies such as hot/cold compresses and manual manipulation of the joint, to prescription medications that help to relax the muscles in the jaw.

If non-invasive therapies prove to be unsuccessful, then your dentist may recommend you for bite realignment surgery. This is a common procedure, performed under anesthetic, which improves the way that your teeth meet when your jaw is closed. Your dentist will be happy to discuss all of the elements of this surgery with you, should you be considering this option.


If you are concerned about TMD, Dr. Ospina will be happy to give you the information and advice that you need to treat your TMJD. Make an appointment at Gables Perfect Smile today at 305-901-0700.