Summary The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between orientation of craniofacial planes relative to the true horizontal and temporomandibular disorder (TMD), in normal occlusion. Fourteen university dental students, with full natural dentition and bilateral Angle Class I occlusion, who exhibited signs and symptoms of TMD, were compared with 14 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Frontal and lateral photographs were taken in natural head position with the subject standing up, clenching a Fox plane and having a facial arch positioned. Photographs were examined by a standardized image analysis. Inter-pupillary axis, Frankfurt, occlusal and Camper planes were evaluated. In frontal view, the Frankfurt plane was right rotated relative to the true horizontal both in TMD subjects (P < 0·01) and controls (P < 0·05), but rotation was larger in TMD subjects (mean difference between groups, 1·1°, 95% confidence interval, 95% CI, 0·2–2·0°). No significant deviation from the horizontal or difference between groups was observed for the interpupillary axis and occlusal plane. In lateral view, the Frankfurt plane was upward-orientated relative to the true horizontal in TMD group (mean angular deviation 2·8°, 95% CI, 1·0–4·6°). The occlusal and Camper planes were downward-orientated in both groups (P < 0·0001), but inclination of occlusal plane tended to be smaller in TMD subjects (mean difference between groups, −3·8°, 95% CI, −7·6–0·1°). Angles between any craniofacial planes did not significantly differ between groups. The findings show that in young adults with normal occlusion, a weak association exists between the orientation of craniofacial planes in natural head position and signs and symptoms of TMD. Furthermore, they suggest that, within this population, TMD might be mainly associated with head posture rather than with craniofacial morphology.