What is temporalmandibular joint dysfunction (TMD)?

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) is a term used by medical professionals to describe a pain that occurs in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), known to most people as your jaw joint. This pain may lead to limiting the types of foods you eat or changing the way you eat due to the repetitive nature of eating. TMD affects thousands of people, but many health professionals, including dentists, have struggled with how to effectively manage this condition. The purpose of this blog is to give you hope that someday you can eat the food you love without having to suffer afterward.


How do I know if I have TMD?

The TMJ is located just in front of your ear hole. Sometimes individuals will experience a loud click or a pop when opening or closing their mouth, or in more severe cases, will experience a locked jaw. The click that most people experience is a result of the displacement of a disc that helps to cushion your joint when opening or close your mouth. Early signs of TMD can involve an audible click with or without pain immediately when opening the mouth. As the dysfunction progresses, the clicking actually occurs at a wider position of opening, and eventually goes away. Many people think that this progression is a good thing because the clicking has stopped. However if left untreated, it will lead to more problems down the road. It is also important to know that you don’t have to have clicking in the jaw to have TMD (for instance, some have pain without clicking), however it’s the clicking that tends to get your attention.


Shouldn’t I see a Dentist for this?

Yes, you should definitely consult your dentist if you are experiencing these symptoms. They do offer some interventions (such as mouth guards) that can help give you some relief. However, dentists often struggle with getting rid of the symptoms completely.


So Physical Therapist can treat TMD?

Absolutely! Physical therapy interventions can provide some immediate relief as well as long term strategies to manage the condition. One of the main contributors to TMD is poor posture, (stay tuned to MoveLivePlay blog to learn more about the mechanisms behind posture’s role in causing TMD and other conditions!). Some Physical Therapists have more experience than others with treating jaw pain, so it’s important to ask the clinic or hospital if they have a PT that is skilled in treating TMD. Physical Therapist utilize hands on techniques to help move that displaced disc back into place, in addition to stretching the joint and providing strengthening exercises for the muscles inside your mouth! Yup I said strengthen the muscles inside your mouth!Often times the muscles in your mouth can get weak,tight, or overstretched which changes the way your mouth functions. PT’s can correct these things, now that’s something to chew on!

So please please don’t give up hope on eating some of your favorite foods, there is still hope! Contact your Physical Therapist today for treatment of your TMD. Please ask questions below if there is something you would like to have further explained.



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