TMD Symptoms & Diagnosis


St.Louis, Missouri

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) often turns out to be the cause of people's chronic headaches. If you have been suffering from recurrent and severe headaches and not finding a way to stop them, they might have this dental cause.

The jaw joint is in front of each ear, and you can feel it move when you put a finger in front of one ear and open your mouth. It is a ball and socket joint, with the lower jaw's ball moving in the skull's socket. A cartilage pad is between the two bone surfaces to cushion them. When it is properly aligned, you feel no pain or discomfort with movement and your upper and lower teeth meet comfortably.

When the jaw joint is out of alignment, the upper and lower teeth meet in a mutually damaging way, bumping and wearing on each other. The jaw muscles try fruitlessly to correct that. When you think of how often we open and close the lower jaw each day, for talking, laughing, eating, yawning etc., you can see how stress might build up in those jaw muscles. Inflammation then sets in, and the large nerves in the area are affected.

Some of the TMD Symptoms

  • Recurrent and painful headaches
  • Earaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Popping or clicking sounds when the jaw moves
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Teeth grinding
  • Jaw clenching
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Facial pain
  • Chips or premature wear in the teeth

There could be other symptoms also. Not everybody will have all the symptoms all the time, as each TMD case is individual. Dr. Quigless would want to examine your entire mouth and jaw, and use our specialized diagnostic equipment to determine whether or not you do have TMD.

TMD Treatments

Since each TMD case is unique, so is each treatment. The goal is always the same however:

To stabilize your jaw in its correct, relaxed position, thus correcting the misalignment (malocclusion) and eliminating pain

Once your TMD is diagnosed, Dr. Quigless would discuss the treatment options with you. Some of the more frequently-used measures are:

  • Use of our TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation) to relax the jaw muscles and relieve your pain
  • A customized orthotic worn for a few months during sleep to help retrain the jaw muscles
  • Dental work to reposition or reshape certain teeth, depending on which ones are interfering with your correct bite
  • Orthodontic work if there is misalignment in all your teeth

If you do have TMD, it is important for your dental health to have it treated as soon as possible. If left untreated, not only will it continue to give you pain, but it will continue damaging your teeth. This could lead to a downward health spiral, where the gum tissue could recede, your teeth could loosen and be lost, and the jawbone could shrink if missing teeth are not replaced.

For more details, please see our pages on TMD Symptoms, TMD Treatment, and TMD Questions.

If you're near St. Louis, MO, and would like to know more about TMD, and learn whether you might be suffering from it, please contact us for a free consultation. In this era of sophisticated dental techniques and technology, nobody has to live with painful TMD symptoms. We hope to meet with you soon.