General Knowledge About Cranio-Mandibular Dysfunction

Watch Dental Video about Cranio-Mandibular Dysfunction

In medicine, cranio-mandibular dysfunction is a frequently erroneously used expression for pain symptoms in the jaw, jaw joint and facial area.

The term “cranio-mandibular dysfunction,” abbreviated CMD, is unclear because it does not have a precise definition. Function means “the work or function of an organ,” thus, dysfunction refers to impaired, or disturbed, function.

Even today, many doctors still compare the jaw joint to an articulator. An articulator is an instrument designed to simulate chewing motions and is a helpful device in the production of dentures. However, comparing an articulator to the biological “jaw joint” system is inaccurate.

Nevertheless, there are many supporters of the articulator theory, and any functional deviation of the jaw joint from the articulator function was/is called –  and treated – as a dysfunction, whether the patient actually experiences problems or not. Therefore, chewing apparatus dysfunction is not consistently defined among medical professionals, and some doctors choose to treat jaw joint crackling even though the patient isn’t experiencing pain or discomfort.

Other doctors treat a so-called “discus displacement.” However, there is no reliable scientific research that shows that crackling jaw joints lead to more severe problems (such as pain, limited mouth opening ability) than those that do not crackle.

Furthermore, there is no evidence-based proof that the discus – meaning the cartilaginous plate in the jaw joint – has to be in a specific position. Many people have a displaced discus but do not suffer from any discomfort! And why should the jaw joint be any different from all the other joints in the human body, which also present a number of “norm variations?” Overtreatment frequently leads to future problems such as pain for the patient.

Mann mit Schmerz verzerrtem Gesicht


Pain symptoms in the jaw, jaw joint and facial area are better defined under the term "myoarthropathy", abbreviated MPA. There will be more about this in the video entitled "Myoarthopathy". Doctors who use the term MPA for pain in the jaw, jaw joint and facial area support the opinion that many symptoms, for example:

  • jaw joint crackling,
  • reduced, life-long, mouth opening ability,

Jaw deviation during mouth opening (deflexion), along with many other conditions, simply represent normal variations so long as the patient does not experience any discomfort. Treatment is not necessary in these cases. By contrast, doctors who use the term CMD frequently treat symptoms but not causes through inconsistent and non-study based treatment concepts.

In medicine, it is common for two diagnoses to exist for the exact same disease. This mirrors medical developments, which have shifted from a purely subjective to evidence based treatment. A CMD diagnosis should not overly concern you, so long as you do not experience pain and your mouth opening ability has been reduced your entire life.

You should visit your doctor if you experience sudden changes such as a sudden inability to open your jaw properly from one day to the next without any evident reason. Limited jaw opening ability is frequently observed after a visit to the dentist and may be caused by acute jaw joint effusion.

Click here to see the video: Myoarthopathy


This post is also available in: German

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