TMJ: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

TMJ disorder, also known as temporomandibular joint disorder, is a condition of the joint where the jawbone attaches to the skull. TMJ disorder causes aching jaw pain and other symptoms that can severely disrupt suffers’ lives, making eating, sleeping and even talking difficult.

What is the temporomandibular joint? 
The temporomandibular joint is a sliding hinge joint that attaches your mandible (jawbone) to your skull. This joint is engaged every time you open, close, or move your mouth. Each bone in the joint is covered with cartilage. In between the two bones, a small shock-absorbing disc keeps the movement of the joint smooth.

What causes TMJ disorder? 
TMJ disorder occurs when the joint is damaged or inflamed. This typically occurs when:

  • The joint is damaged by injury
  • Cartilage in the joint is damaged, such as by arthritis
  • The shock-absorbing disc in the joint is damaged or slides out of proper position

Causes of TMJ syndrome include:

  • Arthritis in the jaw
  • Injury to the jaw, such as a sports injury or car accident
  • Persistent clenching of the jaw
  • Persistent grinding of teeth (bruxism). More about bruxism symptoms here.
  • Connective tissue disorders

Symptoms of TMJ disorder 
Pain is the most prominent symptom of a TMJ disorder. TMJ pain can occur in the jaw itself or in the surrounding areas. Symptoms of TMJ disorder include:

  • Popping or clicking sound while chewing
  • Grating sensation in the joint while chewing
  • Aching pain in the jaw joint, on one or both sides
  • Pain around the ear or ears
  • Pain while chewing
  • Feeling as if the jaw is out of place
  • Facial pain
  • Stiffness or locking of the jaw joint, making it difficult to talk or chew

Treatment for TMJ disorder 
Short-term episodes of TMJ disorder often resolve on their own. For people with persistent TMJ disorder, these TMJ treatments can help:

Pain relievers – To relieve the pain and discomfort of TMJ.

Anti-inflammatories – To reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Muscle relaxant medication – Muscle relaxers can help relieve symptoms when TMJ disorder is caused by muscle spasms.

Mouth guards and appliances – Guards and appliances reduce tooth grinding and clenching and well as keep the jaw in proper position while sleeping to relieve stress on the joint.

Physical therapy – Stretching and strengthening exercises can help relieve symptoms of TMJ disorder.

Injections – Corticosteroid injections into the muscles responsible for chewing may help relieve pain.

Surgery – Several TMJ surgeries can help TMJ sufferers find relief. Surgical procedures for TMJ focus on repairing damaged parts of the joint so that it moves freely without pain.

Home remedies for TMJ syndrome 
There are plenty of things you can do outside your doctor’s office to help relieve your TMJ symptoms.

  • Be aware of holding tension in your jaw. Clenching your teeth while stressed, scared or anxious can contribute to TMJ disorder.
  • Make changes to your diet. Tough foods like crusty bread and beef jerky can be hard on your jaw muscles and trigger TMJ flares.
  • Don’t chew gum.
  • Learn exercises from your dentist or doctor that can help strengthen and stretch the muscles of your jaw.

Ready to find relief from your TMJ disorder? 

We can help. Schedule your appointment today.