#9 TMD and Misinformation: TMD is a Very Complicated Disease

This article is first in a series directed specifically to patients diagnosed with TMD or think they may have TMD.  It is now culturally common for people to be concerned about misinformation.  When I was a young lad, my mother on occasion would say: “Don’t lie to me Tony.” when she caught me in a misdemeanor as I tried to talk my way out of it.  I guess now, in order to be politically correct, she would have to say: Don’t give me misinformation Tony.”  I’ve been wondering about the difference between a lie and misinformation.  Both violate the facts of the matter.  Maybe a lie can be defined as knowingly stating information that differs from known facts, while misinformation may be defined as stating information that you believe is fact, but on inspection is not.  Another form of misinformation is stating information that sounds good, but you really haven’t taken the time to figure out if it is factual.  Another form of misinformation is stating information originating from another source and not applying critical thinking and considering the source to determine if the information is expected to be factual.

There are many variations of misinformation.  So too, there are many variations of misinformation as it relates to TMD.  Critical thinking, considering the source, and a general broad knowledge of the sciences is extremely important in determining fact from fiction when disseminating information regarding TMD.  Scientific bias exists. There have been thousands of examples throughout history.  And TMD certainly has more than its share of bias, patients and providers alike.   It is not my purpose to criticize those with bias. It is to simply state obvious scientific peer reviewed facts and allow the reader to make their own judgement.

This series will focus on several categories of misinformation.  After actively treating patients with TMD over the past 46 years, both surgically and non-surgically, I find there is plenty of  misinformation to go around.  So much so, both patients and providers don’t know what to believe. What is fact and what is misinformation.  What is a lie

Let’s start out with one of the biggest lies about TMD.  It’s the lie taught to every dental student in every dental school in the world.  “The temporomandibular joint is a very complicated joint.  More complicated than any other joint in the body.  It is so complicated that you’ll never fully figure it out.”  I have never had a dentist disagree with me about this dental school lie.   Every dentist starts out in dental school with a defeatist attitude about learning about the TMJ.  No wonder there is so much confusion about the TMJ and TMD.  If you think you can’t, you can’t.

Here are the facts.  The TMJ operates like any other joint in the body.  Yes it has some anatomically unique features, but so does every other joint in the body.  All joints have some unique characteristics. The TMJ has cartilage, bone, ligaments, synovial fluid, and cellular types just like every other joint.  The autonomic nervous system innervates the TMJ just as it does in every other joint in the body.  The features of the TMJ are 90% similar to, or identical to every other joint in the body and only about 10% unique.  The TMJ is not a special joint.

The TMJ is a “special joint” in misinformation.  This is step #1 in understanding TMD.