Temporomandibular Disorder – TMJ vs. TMD

Most everyone has heard of “TMJ” and most associate TMJ with jaw issues – usually clicking noises, pain when chewing, and sometimes the jaw locking in place, but few realize that ‘TMJ’ actually refers to the jaw joint or ‘temporomandibular joint’. TMD or Temporomandibular Disorder is the general term dentists use to describe misalignment in the TMJ. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 10 million Americans are affected by TMD, and most commonly; women. Of those, symptoms range from mild to severe, and about 15 percent have more severe symptoms that require professional treatment.

Looking TMJ in the Mouth

The temporomandibular is the joint located to the front of the ear, linking the jawbone to the skull. With TMD the muscles of the jaw and neck as well as the bones of the skull and face can be affected. In addition to recurrent issues in the areas of the head, neck, or jaw – the function of the whole body can become altered over time.

Although most people have relatively mild forms of the disorder, researchers point out that up to 85 percent of patients who suffer from severe TMD also experience painful conditions in other parts of the body. Some radiating effects of a misaligned jaw can include;

  • Inflammation
  • Arthritis in the TMJ – due to aging or trauma
  • Muscle Spasm –can appear when the jaw is held open for long periods – as in the dental chair
  • Postural changes – which can lead to back and shoulder issues
  • Fractures – at the time of injury, often undiagnosed
  • Breathing issues (sleep apnea)
  • Difficulty walking and foot problems (due to postural changes)
  • Digestive issues
  • Migraine headaches
  • Facial fatigue, swelling
  • Generalized stress and depression

TMD results from the jaw being out of position – a situation that can create intense pain in the jaw, ear, and head. It’s important to diagnose Temporomandibular Disorder as quickly as possible – particularly if there is pain, to alleviate the adverse side effects that can lead to long term health issues.

Treating the Milder Cases at Home

The most common jaw joint and muscle problems are short term and simple treatment may be all that is necessary to relieve discomfort. There are steps can be taken that may ease symptoms, such as:

  • Avoid hard, chewy foods
  • Use ice packs, or moist heat
  • Keep jaw movements to a minimum (no gum chewing)
  • Don’t stress out – take some time to relax and let the jaw mend itself
  • Once the initial pain subsides, incorporate gentle jaw stretching exercises

If pain persists and symptoms of TMD do not subside on their own, making an appointment with a holistic dental practitioner is the best way to address the problem. When properly diagnosed and treated TMJ can most often be resolved in a relatively short period of time, without the need for drugs or surgery.

When the Pain and Popping Persists

There are a number of treatment options a natural dentist might recommend – depending on the health of the patient and the severity of symptoms. The conventional approach to treating TMD is usually aimed at alleviating the symptoms; discomfort and pain. But natural dentistry focuses on rooting out and treating the cause. Therefore, treatment options considered are drug-free, nontoxic and carry no side-effects.


Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)


What Conditions May Overlap with TMD?


Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders