TMJ Disorders

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a condition that affects the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. TMJ disorders can cause jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, trouble chewing, and headaches or earaches. These symptoms can vary in severity and may come and go over time. If you have these symptoms often, it’s important to see a TMJ specialist for treatment.

With the right treatment plan, you can find relief from your symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

Symptoms

One of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder is jaw pain. It may be a dull ache or a sharp pain and can be constant or intermittent. The pain may also radiate to other areas of the face, neck, and shoulders. Some people may also experience headaches, earaches, or a feeling of pressure in the ears.

These symptoms can be disruptive to daily activities and may worsen over time if left untreated. Below are some other common symptoms of TMJ.

• Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint area
or in front of the ear on one or both sides of the face

• Difficulty or discomfort when opening
or closing the mouth
Clicking, popping, or grating sounds 
during jaw movement

• Jaw becomes “locked” in an open or
closed position

• Difficulty chewing or biting, changes
in bite, or feeling that teeth don’t fit 
together correctly

• Swelling or tenderness around the jaw joint

• Frequent headaches, especially tension headaches

• Pain that radiates to the face, temples, cheeks, or around the ears

• Neck, shoulder, or back pain

• Ear-related symptoms, such as earaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or decreased hearing

• Limited jaw movement

• Sleep disturbances

• Dental issues, such as tooth chipping

• Nutritional deficiencies due to difficulties chewing and biting

• Joint degradation

• Increased inflammation

Causes

Some cases of TMJ are caused by events like dental procedures or injuries, but many cases have no single cause. Rather, experts believe that TMJ is the result of several factors contributing to the disorder. Doctors usually classify TMJ disorders into three categories: arthritis, muscle tension, or articular disc displacement.

Contributing factors can include:

  • Injury to the jaw
  • Hormones
  • Genetics
  • Arthritis
  • Teeth grinding and jaw clenching (bruxism)
  • Stress and emotional factors
  • Infections

Diagnosis

Diagnosing TMJ can be difficult because it comes in various forms. Furthermore, TMJ symptoms can be similar to or exacerbate other facial pain conditions.

There’s no single test that definitively identifies TMJ or the cause of jaw pain. Instead, diagnosis involves a detailed physical check-up. This may include examining how your jaw moves, how your teeth fit together, and if there are any tender muscles. Doctors might also use imaging tests like X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans to get a closer look at your jaw and its surrounding structures.

Healthcare providers need to consider all your signs and symptoms to diagnose and treat your TMJ effectively. Here’s how to prepare for your TMJ appointment.

Treatment

In mild cases of TMJ disorder, self-care practices and lifestyle modifications may be sufficient to manage symptoms. If pain is severe or persists for over a month, it is important to seek treatment.

Some TMJ patients may try multiple specialists as they pursue pain relief, resulting in fragmented treatment approaches that do not bring relief. A coordinated approach is essential for identifying treatments that can make a difference.

Each TMJ case is unique, and the treatment plan should be tailored to a patient’s specific causes and symptoms. The goal is to alleviate pain, regain normal jaw function, and improve quality of life.

Our Approach

Getting a professional evaluation and expert advice is important for diagnosing and treating your TMJ disorder correctly. Early intervention and proper management can often lead to better outcomes in pain relief.

Our providers are all board-certified experts in orofacial pain syndromes, including TMJ disorders. Therapies we offer include medication management, oral appliances, and therapeutic injections.