What Is TMJ Disorder and How Is It Treated?

31 Aug, 2023 |

What Is TMJ Disorder and How Is It Treated?


Temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly referred to as TMJ disorder or TMD, is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint – the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. This disorder can lead to uncomfortable symptoms and impact daily activities. In this article, we’ll delve into what TMJ disorder is, its potential causes, and the various treatment options available to manage it.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) plays a crucial role in jaw movement, allowing us to talk, chew, and yawn. TMJ disorder is a group of conditions that affect this joint and its muscles. The disorder can cause pain, discomfort, and dysfunction in the jaw and the surrounding muscles, leading to jaw clicking, popping, or locking.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

The exact cause of TMJ disorder can vary, and often it’s a combination of factors. Some common contributing factors include

  • Bruxism: Grinding or clenching the teeth, often during sleep, can put excessive pressure on the TMJ and surrounding muscles.
  • Misaligned Bite: An improper bite alignment can strain the TMJ, leading to discomfort and pain.
  • Stress: This can lead to teeth clenching and muscle tension, exacerbating TMJ symptoms.
  • Injury: Trauma to the jaw, head, or neck can damage the TMJ and contribute to the development of the disorder.
  • Arthritis: Certain types of arthritis can affect the TMJ, causing inflammation and discomfort.

Recognizing TMJ Disorder Symptoms

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder or TMD) can manifest in various symptoms that affect the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Identifying these symptoms is crucial for seeking appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Here’s a closer look at the symptoms that may indicate TMJ disorder:

  • Frequent Headaches: Persistent headaches, especially those concentrated around the temples or the sides of the head, can be a sign of TMJ disorder. The interconnected nerves and muscles can transmit pain to various head areas.
  • Discomfort around the Jaw: Feeling discomfort, soreness, or pain in and around the jaw joint area is a common symptom of TMJ disorder. This discomfort can range from mild to severe and might worsen when chewing, speaking, or opening your mouth wide.
  • Limited Jaw Movement: Difficulties in fully opening or closing your mouth can indicate TMJ disorder. If you find it challenging to bite down on food, experience stiffness, or have restrictions in jaw movement, it’s essential to consider TMJ as a potential cause.
  • Clicking or Grating Sounds: A clicking, popping, or grating sound when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide can be a telltale sign of TMJ disorder. These sounds result from the displacement of the jaw joint’s components and can vary in intensity.
  • Hearing Problems: Some individuals with TMJ disorder may experience issues with their hearing, such as earaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or a sense of fullness in the ears. These symptoms can occur due to the proximity of the temporomandibular joint to the ear canal.
  • Pain in Face, Neck, and Shoulders: Pain or tenderness that radiates from the jaw joint area to the face, neck, and shoulders can indicate TMJ disorder. The interconnected muscles can transmit pain and discomfort to adjacent regions.

Seeking Professional Help

If you’re experiencing any combination of these symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a dentist or a healthcare professional with expertise in TMJ disorder. They can perform a thorough evaluation, including a physical examination and possibly imaging tests, to diagnose the condition accurately.

Early recognition of TMJ disorder symptoms allows for timely intervention and treatment. Addressing the disorder promptly can help manage pain, prevent worsening symptoms, and improve overall quality of life. Whether through lifestyle modifications, dental interventions, or other treatment options, seeking professional guidance is essential to manage TMJ disorder and regain comfortable jaw function effectively.

Comprehensive Treatment Options for TMJ Disorder

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder or TMD) can cause discomfort and impact daily life, but various treatment approaches can effectively manage its symptoms. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment options range from non-medical interventions to surgical procedures. Let’s explore the spectrum of treatments available:

1. Non-Medical Treatments

  • Self-Care Practices: Often, TMJ disorder treatment begins with conservative approaches that patients can implement at home. These include consuming soft foods to reduce jaw strain, applying heat or cold packs to the jaw area to alleviate pain and inflammation, and avoiding excessive jaw movements like wide yawning or chewing gum.

2. Therapies

  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can play a significant role in alleviating TMJ disorder symptoms. Ultrasound, moist heat, and ice treatments can help relax muscles and reduce inflammation. Additionally, jaw exercises may be recommended to enhance muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Occlusal Therapy: This therapy involves using dental appliances, such as splints or mouthguards, to correct bite alignment and reduce clenching or grinding of teeth, which can contribute to TMJ disorder.

3. Medications

  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may be suggested to manage pain and reduce inflammation associated with TMJ disorder.
  • Muscle Relaxants: In certain situations, muscle relaxants prescribed by a healthcare professional can help ease muscle tension and minimize jaw discomfort.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation and relieve TMJ-related pain.

4. Surgical Procedures

  • Arthrocentesis: This minimally invasive procedure involves inserting needles into the joint to rinse and remove debris, reducing inflammation and improving joint function.
  • Arthroscopy: A more advanced procedure, arthroscopy involves using a small camera and instruments to visualize and address issues within the joint directly.
  • Open-Joint Surgery: In severe cases where other treatments are ineffective, open-joint surgery might be considered. This involves accessing the joint directly to repair or replace damaged tissues.

Specialized Dental Care

Dental professionals specializing in TMJ disorders, such as Dental Care of Boca Raton, can offer tailored and comprehensive treatment approaches. They often combine various therapies, including dental interventions, physical therapy, and medication, to manage the disorder and alleviate symptoms effectively.

Connecting TMJ Disorder To Other Dental Concerns

The Intersection of TMJ Disorder and Teeth Whitening

While TMJ disorder and teeth whitening appear unrelated, they can intersect at certain points. For instance, people with TMJ disorder often grind their teeth, leading to enamel wear and dullness. This may lead some to seek expert teeth brightening to enhance their smile despite dealing with TMJ disorder.

The Relevance of Dental Crowns in TMJ Disorder

Temporary placement of dental crown treatment can be a potential solution for patients dealing with misalignment or wear and tear caused by TMJ disorder. Dental crowns help to reestablish the normal alignment of the bite, hence reducing TMJ disorder symptoms.


Managing TMJ Disorder is a systematic process that begins with identifying the symptoms promptly. It’s always advisable to consult a dentist or medical expert if you suspect a TMJ disorder. Treatment is usually easiest when the condition is caught early. While dealing with TMJ disorder can be challenging, advances in Dentistry provide various treatment options to manage the condition effectively. And while seeking treatment, it’s important to remember that routine dental procedures, like teeth whitening or applying dental crowns, can still be performed safely.