Center For Dental Medicine • 2019 Galisteo St, J2 • Santa Fe, NM 87505 • 505.474.4644

What Is TMD?

TMD stands for temporomandibular disorder. It is not a specific disease or specific diagnosis. It is a class of disorders related to the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), the muscles related to the jaws, and the nerves to the TMJs and jaw muscles.

TMDs can be acute or chronic. Acute means that the problem has recently begun, and chronic means that it has lasted for a while. In general, acute problems resolve more quickly than chronic problems.

TMDs can be caused by trauma, such as a car accident or sports injury. TMDs can also be caused by excessive forces applied to the joints and the muscles by tooth grinding (bruxism), tooth clenching, or other repetitive forces such as continual gum chewing.

TMDs can also be caused by genetic or developmental disorders. An example of this is when the lower jaw is much smaller or much larger than the upper jaw. We have seen adults who have incompletely developed jaw joint because of trauma during early childhood. An example is falling out of a high chair onto the chin.

Signs and Symptoms of TMD

The most common TMDs cause pain in the jaw joints and the muscles which move the jaw (the muscles of mastication). There can be pain when chewing, pain when talking, or inability to open the mouth wide.

Frequent headaches, including migraine, are often a sign of temporomandibular disorders.

Awakening with jaw pain which gets better during the day is usually a sign of TMD.

It is very important to realize that the TMJs can affect the teeth, but cause no obvious joint or muscle pain. One sign of temporomandibular disorders is cracked teeth, especially the very last tooth in the jaw. In TMJ disorders where the disk slips off of the condyle inside the joint, excessive forces are applied to the last tooth, resulting in cracking. This is often overlooked as a sign of TMD.

It is not rare to see last teeth in the jaw that have had root canal treatment, but still continue to have pain. When a last tooth is hurting, but no obvious nerve damage can be found, TMD should be suspected. Before having a root canal treatment "to see if it will get rid of the pain," a TMD evaluation should be done.

TMDs are also associated with pain in other parts of the body. Fibromyalgia, for example, is commonly found in women with temporomandibular disorders.

Call us

If you are here to learn if your pain might be TMD, we are happy to answer by phone any questions you may have. Call us at 505-474-4644.

If you would like to make an appointment, we feel it is best to do so by phone. Computerized appointment systems try to make you fit the system. We try our best to fit your needs.