TMJ Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is TMJ disorder?

TMJ disorder is a condition that causes pain and dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint. 

The TMJ is a ball and socket hinge using sliding and hinging motions. The joint is at the back of the jaw and includes a bony bump called the articular eminence, which stops the jaw from slipping out of place. 

Sometimes, a patient’s articular eminence may be too high for the jaw to slip back into place, causing difficulty closing the mouth. In addition, if the disc erodes or the cartilage becomes damaged, it may also result in painful disorders of the temporomandibular joint.

What causes TMJ disorder?

There are many different causes of TMJ disorders, but the most common one is due to a misalignment of the jaw. When the jaw is not aligned correctly, it puts undue stress on the temporomandibular joint, leading to pain and other symptoms. 

Other causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Arthritis
  • Dislocation or injury to the joint
  • Stress

Read: Why are your teeth wearing away?

What are the symptoms of a TMJ disorder?

The most common symptom of a TMJ disorder is a pain in the jaw, which can be accompanied by a clicking or popping sound when the mouth is opened or closed.

Other symptoms include ear, face, neck or shoulders pain, headaches, and dizziness. In some cases, people with a TMJ disorder may also have difficulty opening their mouths wide or experience pain when chewing.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with us immediately. We can determine if you have a TMJ disorder and develop a treatment plan to help relieve your symptoms. 

How do dentists treat TMJ disorders?

At Smith and Van Lierop, we treat TMJ disorders by first diagnosing the problem. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this condition, as the best way to treat a TMJ disorder will vary depending on the individual case.

However, some standard treatment methods include dental appliances (such as mouthguards), physical therapy, and medication. These treatments can help to reduce pain and inflammation, relax the muscles surrounding the TMJ, and improve jaw function. 

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Surgical treatments for TMJ disorders are typically only recommended when other dental and medical treatments have failed to provide relief. Surgical options include arthroscopic surgery, open joint surgery, and artificial replacement. 

If you require surgery for your TMJ disorder, we can refer you to a trusted surgeon. 

These procedures can be effective in treating TMJ disorders, but they also carry a risk of complications such as infection, nerve damage, and blood vessel damage.

How can I manage symptoms before my dentist appointment?

If your TMJ disorder is causing severe pain and you cannot wait till your dentist appointment for relief, these tips can help to reduce your discomfort:

Aside from taking over-the-counter medication, try placing a warm compress on your jaw to reduce pain and inflammation. You can also try massaging your jaw muscles gently to relieve tension. If you find that your jaw is clicking or popping when you move it, avoid opening it too wide and try exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles around your jaws.

To avoid flare-ups, there are also a few lifestyle changes you can make to ease symptoms of TMJ disorders. Avoid chewing gum and eating hard foods like candy or ice cubes, as this can aggravate the joint. Also, be aware of tension-related habits such as clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. 

During your appointment, we will show you how to do exercises that stretch and strengthen your jaw muscles and how to massage the surrounding muscles. 

If your TMJ disorder is causing debilitating pain, we urge you to book an emergency appointment so that we can treat you as soon as possible.

Book an emergency appointment.