Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD)

Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD) is an umbrella term for most of the painful symptoms associated with the chewing apparatus and the temporomandibular or jaw joints. Craniomandibular Dysfunction is a similar collective term that describes exactly the same thing so these two terms actually have the same meaning. The first-mentioned term is a combination of temporal = everything referrering to the temporal bone, mandibula = lower jaw and dysfunction. TMD is even more precise than CMD, because the latter refers to the whole skull, whereas only the temporal bone is involved.

TMD belongs to a category of musculoskeletal pain that also includes the much more common backache. The term TMD, which is used throughout the world, is rather problematic because the concept of ‘dysfunction’ is not really clear: this word is often used to describe harmless findings and diagnostic indicators that do not really constitute an illness at all.

These harmless findings include asymmetry movement of the lower jaw, clicking jaw joints and any contact between the teeth that deviates from a theoretical ideal. Unfortunately, many doctors attribute such harmless and medically insignificant findings to TMD. As a result of this, many healthy people suddenly find that they have suddenly become patients and then there is a free-for-all meaning that they are offered all kinds of inappropriate treatment. It would be a lot more precise to speak just about painful TMD because pain symptoms are actually the reason that someone goes to see a doctor in the first place so these should be treated.

TMD or CMD is therefore a rather imprecise term which is nevertheless referred to on this website because it is in common use throughout the world. However, this long Latin name should not mislead people into believing that they have a serious illness because TMD is actually benign and self-limiting and usually disappears without any treatment at all.