If you go to the dental office, or any other office of a number of different health care practitioners, and you are having what you think is “TMJ” you may say the doctor say you have TMD.

Now what is TMD exactly? TMD is the proper medical acronym for TMJ Dysfuction, or Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction. Most often, however, you will hear people refer to TMD as simply TMJ.

Now this can get confusing, because after all, TMJ is simply a part of your craniofacial anatomy.

For instance, when a patient says, “I have TMJ,” it is the same as saying, “I have knee.” So to fully understand what TMD is, we should first ensure that we are addressing the joint dysfunction by the proper medical terminology.

And here is why. People often will say that they have no pain in their TM joint, yet they will have sinus pain, constant headaches, facial muscular pain, or many other symptoms that are all common with TMD. Others will have popping or clicking in the joint, assume it's normal, and not think anything of it. However, if you have popping or clicking in the joint, you have TMD.

TMD, like any other pathology or dysfunction, has a broad spectrum of symptoms and pathology states. So, you can have mild clicking, show no signs of pain, and have early stages of TMD. Other patients may not have any jaw pain, but have headaches, neck aches, referred muscular pain in the back and through the head region. They too could have TMD.

Why are so many people affected with TMD?

There are a number of theories about why so many people are affected, but here is what we know:

  1. Women have TMD more frequently than men – may be due to the ligaments in the female body tend to have more laxity, which can cause the joint ligaments to stretch out.
  2. Trauma to the face or head can cause TMD. Whether it's a car accident, or an overstretched opening due to dental work. Both occur very commonly.
  3. A poor bite, or occlusion, can cause TMD over time. Some dentists will argue this point but the research and common sense human anatomy suggest otherwise.
  4. Clenching and grinding your teeth. In the human body, muscles are attached to bones, and bones are alive, they can be stretched and slipped and re-shaped. If you clench and grind your teeth, your facial muscles pull and can re-shape the dimensions of the jaw bone and affect the opening of the jaw, it leads to TMD.

In conclusion, TMD is a common dysfunction for the human anatomy known as the TMJ, and there are many reasons why people can get TMD. So you can now feel more educated and understand what those doctors are talking about when they mention 'TMD!'