Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a condition of the jaw that causes painful symptoms, discomfort, and problems with bite alignment. This often results in headaches, aching jaws, and facial pain. Specializing in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) treatment, Dr. Gary B. Dempsey has decades of experience diagnosing and helping patients in Oklahoma City, OK, find relief from the related symptoms. If you have any questions or concerns, give our office a call today to schedule a consultation!

What is TMD?

The temporomandibular joint is responsible for the movement of the jaw. The TMJ facilitates chewing, eating, and speaking. When the jaw joints do not fit together properly, the jaw and facial muscles can become overexerted, resulting in a wide array of health problems. Living with TMD can be frustrating and uncomfortable. Symptoms may be temporary or can last for extended periods of time. There are multiple factors that can lead to the development of TMD, though the exact cause may be difficult to determine.

What causes TMD?

There are multiple factors that can lead to the development of TMD, though the exact cause may be difficult to determine.

A few known risk factors include:

  • Bruxism: Grinding teeth or clenching the jaws can put excessive stress on the TMJs.

  • Misaligned Bite: When the upper and lower jaws do not fit together correctly, the surrounding oral and maxillofacial structures can suffer excessive stress.

  • Cartilage Erosion: The cartilage in the TMJ allows for smooth, normal functioning. If the cartilage wears thin, it can cause significant problems.

  • Joint Dislocation: If you notice frequent popping and clicking when opening or closing your mouth, you may be experiencing dislocation, which can strain the surrounding structures and limit the movement of the jaw.

  • Arthritis: Inflammation caused by arthritis may spread to the surrounding structures, such as muscles and ligaments.

  • Hormones: Statistically, TMD affects more women than men. Some researchers suggest that female hormones may be a factor.

  • Injury: Blunt force trauma may contribute to the development of TMD.

  • Genetics: As with many health conditions, some patients may simply be predisposed to certain problems like TMD.

What are the Symptoms?

The TMJ holds the lower jaw in its correct position. If there is an issue with the alignment or function of the jaw joints, the surrounding muscles can become strained in an attempt to correct the problem. If this continues to go untreated, the muscles can become fatigued and inflamed.

Common symptoms of TMD include:

  • Jaw pain

  • Popping or clicking of the jaw

  • Facial pain or swelling

  • Earaches

  • Headaches

  • Neck and shoulder pain

  • Back pain

  • Toothaches

Dr. Dempsey will assess your TMJs, and create a custom treatment plan to address your individual needs.

Diagnosis and TMD Treatment

Not only can TMD have a significant negative impact on quality of life, but it can also lead to more serious health concerns. Early diagnosis is key in preventing further problems. Dr. Dempsey is a member of the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, and one of the few dentists in the state of Oklahoma who is trained in this specialized field. He has been assisting patients with TMD since he completed his residency in 1987.

Most patients suffering from TMD will begin with wearing a customized oral appliance to help position the jaws, joints, and facial muscles in proper alignment. However, because no two patients are the same, treatments can vary depending on your specific situation. Dr. Dempsey will assess your TMJs and create a custom treatment plan to address your individual needs.


What does TMJ mean?

The temporomandibular joint is known as the TMJ. This is the joint where your jaw intersects with your skull. If this joint is not functioning smoothly, a number of serious conditions can develop. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that as many as 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ problems of one kind or another.

What causes TMJ Disorders?

The dysfunction of the TMJ can be caused in several ways including trauma, a misaligned bite, physical stress, or even emotional stress. Eventually, the accumulated pain produces a variety of symptoms.

What might indicate TMJ problems?

The following symptoms may indicate a TMJ problem:

  • Headaches of any kind, and especially chronically occurring migraines

  • Chronically occurring earaches

  • Bruxism (more commonly known as teeth grinding)

  • The inability to open or close your mouth completely

  • A popping or clicking noise each time you open your jaw

  • A tingling in your fingers

  • Pain in the face, neck, shoulder, lower back, or jaw that is unexplained

At Comprehensive Family Dentistry, Dr. Dempsey and his staff can perform a thorough examination of your jaw to locate the source of your TMJ issues. Most patients find relief with simple oral appliances. These thin, comfortable mouth guards will reposition your jaw and ease the stress on your TMJ to ensure the alignment of your joint is correct. Realigning your jaw can quickly reduce headaches and other symptoms that come from TMJ issues.

There are additional treatments for a variety of scenarios. These treatments can include lifestyle adjustments, stress management advice, or even building up the surface of your back teeth to correct your misaligned bite. 


Do you think you are experiencing TMD symptoms? Call now and schedule an appointment with us today!