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Do you know the difference between TMJ and TMD?

Maybe you’ve heard of one or both, but just aren’t sure what they mean or how they affect your dental health. The acronym TMJ stands for ‘temporomandibular joint’ – a small joint that connects your lower jaw to the temporal bones in your skull — while TMD is short for temporomandibular disorder which refers to any discomfort related to this crucial joint.

TMJ = the Joint(s)
TMD = the dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint(s) and associated craniofacial structures. 

Medicine classifies TMD as a secondary headache disorder but there may be associated symptoms including different types of orofacial pain, limited function or mobility or spinal dysfunction present.

As dentists and doctors who work with patients dealing with these disorders, it is essential to have an understanding of each term so we can provide our clients with the best possible care. 

If you are suffering from TMD, this article can be equally as useful to you.

In this blog post, we will explore an overview of the causes, clinical signs, diagnosis, and treatment of TMD.

Prevalence: Studies show TMD is common as high as 31% in adults and 11% in children but Dr. Tiffany believes this number could be even higher, especially in children as their symptoms may manifest in a different way (sleep-related breathing disorders, headaches, jaw deviation and popping) but may not have the same pain signs and symptoms as an adult. This is why it is essential that Healthcare providers such as pediatricians, pediatric dentists, PTs, OTs, SLPs, myofunctional therapists, and lactation consultants start identifying children that could become a high-risk TMD patients later on in life. The prevalence of TMD is about 1.5 times higher in females than males in adults.


Symptoms of TMD can range from mild to severe, and can vary from person to person. Common symptoms of TMD include pain in the face, neck, shoulders and/or jaw area; difficulty chewing or opening the mouth, earache, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and headaches. Many people also experience clicking or popping sounds as they open and close their mouths. Some individuals may experience jaw locking (either a closed lock or an open lock), limited mandibular range of motion and impaired spinal mobility.

TMD may be associated with bruxism (a condition characterized by excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth), sleep or airway dysfunction, arthritis or degenerative changes, trauma to the head/neck or jaw, dental malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth) and more. Environmental factors and autoimmune conditions or connective tissue disorders may also play a factor.

Treatment – Empathy Protocol

Treatment for TMD depends on the severity of the condition, but may include lifestyle modifications such as stress management techniques and relaxation exercises, physical therapy or massage to reduce tension in the jaw muscles, use of a splint or custom appliance, medications (such as muscle relaxants), injection therapy, orthodontic therapy, bite adjustments or equilibration and in some cases.. surgery.

The Empathy Protocol is a holistic approach to jaw joint care developed by me – Dr. Tiffany Lamberton.

1. Understand your unique story by doing a comprehensive exam.

2. Assess your anatomy which may include modern imaging.

3. Design your customized Relief Plan. 

I believe that the best possible treatment begins with empathy and understanding. Through this protocol, I’m able to take a deep-dive into the patient’s story and experiences in order to gain an understanding of their jaw joint issues, before taking a closer look at their anatomy using diagnostic imaging. From there, I develop an individualized Relief Plan tailored specifically to each patient’s needs and goals for optimum care. With the Empathy Protocol, patients can feel confidence that they are receiving personalized attention and support every step of the way on their journey toward improved health and wellbeing. Dr Tiffany frequently collaborates with other healthcare providers including other dental specialists, sleep physicians, ENTs, myofunctional therapists and other complementary therapies in order to achieve your best treatment outcome.


Ultimately, the best course of action for anyone living with TMD is to seek out a qualified treatment provider who understands your needs and can provide compassionate, patient-specific care.

With knowledge comes power, which is why I highly encourage those who experience persistent or acute facial pain to get informed – be proactive, ask questions and equip yourself with the answers you need.

If you have any questions about TMD, please don’t hesitate to reach out – I am here and ready to lend a helping hand.

Hey bestie! Go ahead and pin this blog.  💖📌

hey there!

I’m Dr. Tiffany

Let’s get you back to doing and enjoying the things you love, without chronic pain getting in the way.

My approach takes the whole interconnected muscle and joint system into account (not just the teeth) to help my patients finally manage their symptoms, create relief, and own their anatomy.