TMD: A Quick Guide

By: Breanna Salazar, PT, DPT Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, or TMD, is a common disorder that affects millions of Americans yearly. TMD refers to a variety of symptoms affecting the jaw. Symptoms of TMD are varied person to person, but may include:

  • Pain in your jaw, face, teeth, or head
  • Dizziness and tinnitus, or ringing in your ears
  • Clicking in your jaw upon opening or closing
  • Inability to open your mouth

TMD can arise from many factors. Today we will discuss two sources of TMD that are common given our current circumstances:

  1. Stress

Does family ever tell you that you are grinding your teeth at night? Do you find yourself consciously relaxing your jaw during the day? If yes, you may be experiencing bruxism. Bruxism, especially sleep bruxism, has been linked to psychological factor such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Stress is an all too familiar feeling to everybody right now. The clenching and grinding of your jaw can lead to unnatural tissue stress on your muscles and joint. This can cause headaches, muscle pain, clicking in your jaw, or even pain with eating and talking.

  1. Posture

As mentioned in a previous blog post, many of us find ourselves working remotely, which means more time spent sitting at a computer. Unfortunately, this frequently leads to a slouched posture, which causes your head to fall forward. This in return will force your jaw to be pulled backwards and cause stress on the surrounding tissues. Something as simple as properly setting up your workspace, or taking breaks every 30-45 min for simple and quick exercises can make all the difference when it comes to combating posture-related dysfunctions and pain.

Next steps: If you suspect that you are experiencing TMD, the first call you should make is to your dentist. Your dentist may recommend an oral appliance, which may help alleviate your pain and clicking. Your second call should be to a physical therapist who is experienced in treatment and management of TMD. An experienced therapist will provide a thorough evaluation of your jaw, posture, and movement mechanics to establish an individualized program to treat your dysfunctions.

If anything has been certain about this pandemic it is the fact that our lifestyles have gone through some changes. Our office would be happy to assist in any of your physical or occupational therapy needs. To schedule an appointment, please call 973-322-7500.

Breanna Salazar PT, DPT

Doctor of Physical Therapy

LSVT BIG certified

Phone: 973-322-7537

E-mail: Breanna.salazar@rwjbh.org

Bree is a physical therapist at the Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston. She treats patients with both orthopedic and neurological conditions, with a special interest in craniofacial pain and temporomandibular joint dysfunctions. Bree completed her BS in biology at Ramapo College of NJ in 2014, and received her doctorate in physical therapy at Rutgers University in 2016. She completed LSVT Big certification in 2020 and is actively working towards her CCTT from the Physical Therapy Board of Craniofacial and Cervical Therapeutics. When she is not in the clinic, she enjoys walking with her dogs, spending time with family, and knitting.

The Saint Barnabas Medical Center Rehabilitation centers are open and ready to help you achieve your goals. With four locations in West Orange, Millburn and Livingston, the experienced and compassionate staff at Saint Barnabas Rehabilitation offers adults and children the specialized care they need to resume an active life after surgery, injury or illness. They are committed to providing patients with the most advanced services in a safe, caring and soothing environment. For high-risk patients who are unable to visit in person, telehealth is an option. Patients do not need a prescription for physical therapy services