The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on either side of your face, and it is incredibly important for functions such as eating, talking, smiling, and intimacy. Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD) affects approximately 10% of the adult population. 

So, what are the common symptoms of TMD? 

  • Pain in the jaw, face or neck
  • Clicking in the jaw
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Full feeling in the ears
  • A feeling of sinus pressure
  • Decreased jaw opening

Next, you’re probably wondering what causes TMD? While there can be many causes some factors include: 

  • Trauma
  • Emotional stress
  • Para-functional activity (e.g. clenching or grinding the teeth)
  • Issues with your bite 

As a physiotherapist, what types of issues can I treat for the TMJ? 

  • Disc displacements
  • Arthralgia (joint pain)
  • Muscle and myofascial pain
  • Headaches attributed to TMD
  • Degenerative joint disease

Now that you know what TMD is, here are some other common questions that frequently come up: 

If my jaw clicks is that a bad thing?
Not necessarily. If you are pain-free and fully functional with then it’s not an issue! Discs remodel over time and eventually, the clicking should subside. 

Is the ringing in my ears related to the jaw?
Possibly! There are 2 small muscles that connect between the jaw and inner ear, so it can cause symptoms like tinnitus (ringing in the ear, and aural fullness) 

Does dental work cause TMD?
No. While having your mouth open for a prolonged period can make your jaw sore, it is unlikely that it’s the cause of dysfunction. 

If I grind my teeth or clench will I develop TMD?
Not necessarily. 30% of people who do are asymptomatic, while 10% do have symptoms of TMD. 

Will a nightguard stop my jaw pain?
Probably not, as it won’t stop your clenching or grinding. However, if you are getting signs of wear on your teeth then it will help protect them. 

Now that you know a little more about the TMJ, if you have any concerns book in with a Physiotherapist for an assessment and some tips on how to treat it! 

– Written by: Kendall Segin, Registered Physiotherapist
For more information about Kendall, visit her bio