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What is TMD or TMJ?

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are a common subgroup of orofacial pain disorders, often incorrectly referred to as “TMJ”. TMJ is the abbreviation used for the temporomandibular joint or jaw joint.

What are the most common symptoms or signs?

TMD symptoms include pain or discomfort in or around the ear, jaw joint, and/or muscles of the jaw, face, temples and neck on one or both sides. Headaches can also be related to TMD. The pain may arise suddenly and progress with fluctuating frequency and intensity over months to years. Clicking, popping, grating (crepitus), locking, limited opening or deviating jaw movement, chewing difficulties, and headache are also associated with TMD. Also, sometimes a subtype of TMD called myofascial pain can refer pain to orofacial areas like the teeth, maxillary sinus, gums and tongue. If you have symptoms like that, you can have TMD.

Treatment or management

Because there is no known “cure” for TMD, management of patients with TMD symptoms is similar to management of patients with other orthopedic or rheumatologic disorders. The goals of TMD management include decrease in pain, decrease in adverse pressure or “loading” on the jaw joints, restoration of function of the jaw and normal daily activities. These goals are best achieved by identifying all contributing factors and implementing a well defined management program to treat physical, emotional and psychological factors. Most patients suffering from TMD achieve good long term relief with conservative (reversible) therapy. Scientific research demonstrates that over 50% of TMD patients treated with conservative management have few or no ongoing symptoms of TMD.

Insurance and payment

TMD, headaches and some other orofacial pain conditions may be covered by Medical Insurance.

Patient care and services

  • PreDoctoral clinic - You may be seen by a dental student supervised by a TMD/Orofacial Pain Specialist as part of comprehensive patient care as a patient of the Dental School.
  • Faculty practice - You may be seen by Dr. Francisco Alencar, a TMD/Orofacial Pain Specialist. To schedule a screening appointment, call (414) 288-0788 and ask for an appointment with Dr. Francisco Alencar.


You may find more information about TMD and other orofacial pain disorders through the American Academy of Orofacial Pain.