TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. TMD, on the other hand, stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. The distinction between the two is merely that TMJ denotes the joint itself while TMD indicates disorders characterized by inflammation or misalignment of the TMJs.
The jaw bone is connected to your skull by the temporomandibular joints located on each side of your head just in front of your ears. Jaw muscles are attached to these bones allowing you to open and close your mouth as well as talk and eat. The ligaments that hold these joints together gradually wear out causing inflammation and pain which can eventually lead to arthritis if left untreated.
Symptoms may include pain or tenderness in or around one or both jaws with varying degrees of severity. Other symptoms may include earaches, tightness in your face, headaches, neck pain, clicking sensation when opening mouth wide, and muscular cramps.
The primary cause of TMD is a muscle fault, so-called “trigger points”. The jaw cannot move without muscles. The jaw muscles have two origins and attach to the jawbone on each side, which moves the jaw front-back and sideways. There are many different things that can cause TMD, including teeth grinding, poor posture, stress, injury, infection, arthritis, or other conditions.
Jaw problems are caused by overuse of jaw muscles, misalignment of teeth, teeth grinding or clenching, as well as poor posture, and stress. While grinding and clenching your teeth can be primary factors, there can also be many secondary factors related to jaw pain, including jaw malocclusion (when your upper and lower teeth don’t meet properly), poor dental hygiene, stressful lifestyle, poor posture, jaw injury or trauma, aging bones and muscles, and bruxism (grinding of the teeth). Jaw pain that lasts only momentarily after eating or opening the mouth wide for instance may indicate a temporary problem, such as TMD that has gone into spasm or locked jaw position termed “trismus”.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are the number one cause of orofacial pain. Jaw pain, earaches, headaches, or neck pain are common symptoms of TMD. TMD is an umbrella term that describes a number of different conditions all with the same primary symptom: jaw pain.