TMD: The Great Impostor

Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from what the public calls "TMJ". TMJ stands for temporomandibular joints, which are the "jaw joints". There is one of these joints on either side of your face, just in front of your ear. The lower jaw is the mandible. The temporal bone of the skull forms the socket for the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

When symptoms arise from the TMJ, dentists usually refer to the process as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). Oddly enough, often those symptoms don't seem to be related directly to the TMJ, thus the reason we call it "the great impostor".

TMD symptoms often include headaches (usually located behind the eyes or radiating over the sides of the face and head) and neckaches (usually occurring on the back of the neck where it joins the head). The latter type of headache/neckache often feels like tension and are sometimes called "tension headaches".

Other symptoms which lead to the elusiveness of TMD include: stuffiness in one or both ears, ringing in one or both ears, dizziness (vertigo), hearing difficulties, low back pain, poor posture, and occasionally ulcer-like symptoms in the stomach.

Symptoms, which are not so illusive, include:

  1. clicking, popping, and/or grinding (crepitus) in the jaw joint
  2. tenderness or pain in the jaw joint
  3. sore or painful muscles in the head, face, or neck
  4. difficulty in chewing
  5. fatigue of the jaw muscles after prolonged chewing or talking
  6. limitations of the range of motion of the lower jaw
  7. locking of the jaw in either the open or closed position
  8. clenching or grinding the teeth
  9. deviation of the jaw when opening or closing the mouth

TMD affects women significantly more frequently than men (approximately 8:1). Because the symptoms are so diverse and often hard to describe, people often contact several doctors of different specialties seeking help. TMD symptomatic patients almost always have a two-part problem:

  1. A disharmony between the TMJ and the occlusion of the teeth. In other words, when the TMJ is functioning in its most relaxed, unstrained position the teeth do not come together (occlude) properly. Signs of this disharmony may include: ` excessive wear of the teeth, fracturing of the teeth, and loosening of the teeth
  2. A significant stress problem or a diminished capacity to deal with stress. (Sometimes manifested by clenching and/or grinding of the teeth.)

In 1983, inspired by ideas from Dr. Bob Kernott and the results of a massive anthropological study of non-orthodonticly treated normal skulls; Dr. Wooten began developing his unique concept of the problems, which predispose a person to TMD. At the same time, he began to fashion a unique method of diagnosis and treatment for TMD. Through previous education in gnathology and extensive experience in full mouth reconstruction, he acquired a very special understanding of how the teeth, jaws and bones of the skull, and the muscles were designed to function together. His orthopedic and orthodontic training enables him to non-surgically develop and orchestrate an ideal relationship between all the structural components to achieve lasting comfort, function, esthetics and beauty.