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What is TMD (TMJ)?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMD (TMJ), refers to problems involving both the jaw joints and the muscles of the head, neck and face.  Any problem which prevents the complex system of muscles, bones and joints from working together in harmony may result in TMD.

The temporomandibular joints may be the most sophisticated joints in the body because they move up and down, side to side and in a wide range of motion. These joints are located in front of the ears and, unlike other joints in the body, move in unison.  Muscles attach to the bones and joints which allow such movements. We use them to eat, talk, yawn, sing, and swallow.  When the jaw joint functions properly, the bones do not actually touch because of a thin layer of cartilage that cushions them.

To get an idea of how the joints function, place your fingers on the sides of your face in front of your ears.  Open and close your mouth and you will feel the movement.  It should feel smooth when opening, closing or moving your jaw from side to side.  It should not click, pop or grind.  The disc can “misfunction” for any one of several reasons – trauma, such as a blow to the face or a fall, arthritis, poor posture, a “bad bite” – missing or loose teeth, improperly fitting dentures or partials – any anomaly that prevents your teeth from coming together and provide proper bracing for the jaws.