TMD Symptoms Indicating Rehabilitation

The most common temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) symptom is orofacial pain.  Orofacial pain involves pain at the mouth, face, ear, and the surrounding head and neck areas.  10 the 15% of the US population suffers from some type of orofacial pain, and the most common cause is temporomandibular joint dysfunction. In fact, these TMD symptoms commonly result from muscular trigger points at the face and jaw that are associated with TMD.  The orofacial pain component of TMD symptoms are dull, aching, or throbbing.  Patients have described the face pain as like a “weight on my face”, “needles, digging in and shooting,” and “painful tightening.”  Sometimes the pain will radiate towards the head or neck. Sometimes there is pain isolated to one or more teeth, resulting in a dental evaluation.

TMD symptoms include facial pain, worse with chewing.

Orofacial pain from TMD is typically aggravated by opening the mouth wide, chewing, and yawning.  Patients are often distressed that an evening of talking and dining with friends can result in severe face pain. Chewing involves a complex coordination of muscles that cross the neck, jaw, and head.When knees muscle to not work together in a coordinated way, there is imbalance of the joint motion and overactivity of some muscles. Therefore increasing and prolonged activity results in more TMD symptoms.

TMD symptoms include referred face pain

Face pain often originates from the muscular imbalance inherent to TMD.

TMD symptoms don’t always include jaw clicking.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) may or may not be associated with clicking, sticking, or locking of one or both of the temporomandibular joints. Inflammation and arthritic changes at the temporomandibular joints, indicate that the condition has been going on longer and is more complicated.  Yet, one can have symptoms of TMD without locking or clicking of the joints.  In fact, the presence of a click, while disconcerting, is not a good indicator of whether one’s TMD rehabilitation program is progressing well.

Key TMD symptoms indicating a need for rehabilitation:

  • Tightness and trigger points at the neck
  • Forward head posture (ears in front of shoulders)
  • Headache starts after chewing gum
  • Tenderness at the TMJ
  • TMJ pain with biting a hard object
  • Only temporary relief with NSAID (ie. Advil)
  • Unexplained ear pain
  • Unexplained tooth pain
  • Chronic orofacial pain
  • Loss of jaw opening
  • Deviation of jaw to one side with opening

TMD symptoms indicating a need for rehabilitation of the jaw

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