Frequently Asked Questions About TMD

What is TMD?

TMD stands for Temporomandibular joint disorders. It is an umbrella term referring to a group of disorders at the jaw joint, called the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ). “TMD” and “TMJ” are often used interchangeably when referencing Temporomandibular joint disorders or problems with the jaw.


What are the Symptoms of TMD?

  • Jaw fatigue
  • Jaw/neck pain
  • Pain with chewing
  • Headaches
  • Limited jaw range of motion
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Difficulty opening mouth
  • Jaw clicking and popping
  • Dizziness
  • Locking jaw

How is TMD Diagnosed?

Your physical therapist will evaluate your posture and how your neck moves. They will examine the TMJ to find out how well it opens and whether there are abnormalities in your jaw motion. Your therapist might place his or her hand in your mouth in order to examine your jaw movement.


How is TMD treated?

Depending on the exact cause, TMD is often treated with a team approach. Dentists, oral surgeons and physical therapists work together, each offering specific expertise in addressing the cause of the TMD. Commonly, dentists will provide a custom night splint to allow the jaw muscles to rest and relax. Occasionally, an oral surgeon is required to surgically repair temporomandibular joint structures. Physical therapists use manual techniques, soft tissue massage and gentle exercises to restore function, including pain free mobility, chewing and talking.


How can I know what is causing my TMD and how it should be treated?

An effective treatment plan always begins with a thorough initial evaluation by a specialized professional. A dentist, oral surgeon or physical therapist specializing in TMD can provide this initial evaluation. After the initial evaluation, it is common for additional members of the team to be included in the treatment plan in order to effectively address all issues identified in the initial evaluation.


What should I expect on my first physical therapy visit?

Your physical therapist will begin with a skilled evaluation of the temporomandibular joint, associated muscles, and TMJ disc. If you have been referred by a dental or medical professional to therapy, then close attention will be given to any instructions provided by the professional and findings from the therapy evaluation will be communicated to the referring professional to ensure an effective team approach. A physical therapy plan of care will be communicated to you that will include the type of therapy (e.g. massage, exercise, etc.) and how long it will take to achieve your goals. Treatment will begin on your initial visit. Each visit typically lasts for about an hour.