What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD)?

If you’ve ever experienced jaw pain when eating, or heard a clicking or popping sound when your mouth opens and shuts, it could be a sign you have Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJD.

Believed to affect more women than men, the condition describes a group of disorders that impact the muscles, movement and function associated with the joints of the jaw.

So, what is TMJD, and how is it treated?

A giant hinge

To put it simply, the temporomandibular joints on either side of your jaw act like a giant hinge.

Considered one of the most complex joints in the body, they connect the jawbone to the skull and allow the jaw to open and close, shift side to side, and move backwards and forwards.

Any issue that impacts this complex mechanism of joints, ligaments and muscles is considered a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of TMJD can vary but include:

  • A popping sound when you open or close your mouth
  • Your jaw “locking” or getting “stuck”, so it is difficult to open or close your mouth
  • Mild jaw pain and tenderness
  • Pain in one or both temporomandibular joints
  • Aching pain in or around the ear
  • Headaches
  • Pain when chewing or difficulty chewing
  • A sudden change to the bite alignment


What causes TMJD?

Although TMJDs can be caused by injury, often the real reason behind them is hard to determine. Research indicates people who regularly clench or grind their teeth may be more prone to temporomandibular joint disorders, while arthritis can also play a role.

Painful TMJDs are more likely in instances where the disc or joint moves out of proper alignment, the joint is damaged by a blow or injury, or the joint is damaged by arthritis.

How is TMJD treated

Treatments for TMJDs vary depending on the severity of the condition, but in many cases the first element of treatment is self-care and relaxation.

Your dentist may recommend:

  • Applying heat packs to the joint affected to eliminate muscle spasms and pain
  • Reducing the impacts of teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism) by wearing a mouthguard while you sleep
  • Utilising relaxation and stress reduction techniques to minimise tension in the jaw
  • Jaw exercises to help strengthen the jaw muscles
  • In rare cases where all other techniques have not yielded a result, jaw surgery may be recommended.

Consult your dentist

If you suspect you have a TMJD and it’s causing you discomfort, your dentist is the first port of call. They will undertake a physical assessment of the jaw and may also X-Ray or scan the area in order to determine the cause of the pain so a suitable treatment plan can be devised.

About Brite Dental

Brite Dental is a community-focused dental practice, committed to ensuring you and your family receive the highest quality of care in a warm and professional environment.

Offering a full range of dental services, ranging from children’s dentistry through to orthodontics and high-end cosmetic dentistry, we are conveniently located in central Panania.

You can learn more about our dental services, or contact us to book your next appointment.