Here’s a quick breakdown on TMD, and it’s worth the read whether you think you have this condition or not because:
If you think that you’re suffering from this condition, you’ll better understand the issue and have a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into if you choose to seek treatment.
If you don’t have this condition – you will learn about the causes behind the development of this condition, which will help you stay TMD-free.
What is TMD?
TMD is a complex disorder often dealing with a combination of muscle imbalance, articular/joint dysfunction, and postural problems resulting in pain, jaw dysfunction, and eventually degeneration.
Throughout the body, joints are surrounded by muscles. The tension of the surrounding muscles controls the position of the joint.
Ideally, the muscles act on the joint in an equal/balanced way resulting in good joint control and no pain.
But when the pull from the surrounding muscles isn’t so well balanced, this can lead to pain and dysfunction due to the uneven pressure on the joint. Muscle imbalance typically plays a significant role in the development of TMD.
Damage to the temporomandibular joint itself is often the product of muscle imbalance, but in some cases, joint problems can be the primary source of TMD.
Trauma to the joint via a blow to the jaw often results in TMD. Other issues such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory forms of arthritis, and infections can affect the joint and result in TMD.
Joint restrictions in the cervical and thoracic spinal segments are also strongly associated with TMD. Joint manipulation of these regions has proven to be one of the most powerful forms of treatment for this condition.
There is a very high correlation between forwarding head posture and forward rolled shoulders and TMD development.
As the head is held out in front of the chest, this creates muscle imbalance as the muscles in the back of the neck are forced to work harder to keep the head upright.
Forward head posture also puts the muscles in the front of the neck slack, making it difficult for the muscles we use to open our mouths to perform their job.
Eventually, this will lead to joint restrictions, so you can see that this is a vicious cycle.
- Over 3% of Americans seek treatment for TMD yearly, and it is suspected that there is a much higher percentage of the population struggling with this condition but going untreated.
- The average age range of TMD patients is 20-50, and females are 2-3x more likely to develop TMD than males.
- Psychosocial problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression are widely accepted as factors leading to a higher likelihood of developing TMD.
- Habits such as nail-biting, finger/thumb sucking, cheek/tongue biting, and mouth breathing are also strongly associated with the onset of TMD.
- Teeth clenching and bruxing (rhythmic clinching) are significantly associated with TMD, and these habits are often subconscious, meaning the patient is likely unaware that they are doing it.
How do I know if I have TMD?
- If you experience popping, clicking, or locking of the jaw in an open or closed position.
- Jaw pain while chewing and ear pain are symptoms indicative of TMD
Clinical pearl: teeth clenching and grinding at night often produce headaches. If you wake up with headaches and jaw pain, you are highly likely clenching while sleeping.