TMJ is not just one disorder, but several disorders that affect the jaw joint and the muscles that control chewing.  The pain can be as minor as slight clicking to popping sensations when the mouth is opened or closed, or as serious as chronic pain extending into the face, neck and shoulders.  as a rule, discomfort from TMJ is occasional and not permanent, sometimes occurring in cycles.  The pain tends to eventually go away with little or no treatment.  Although, no one knows for sure how many people have TMJ, the disorders seem to affect more women than men.

Causes of TMJ

While the exact causes of TMJ are unknown, it is believed that the following contribute to the disorder:

*Head trauma

*Head or neck injuries

*lost teeth and arthritis in the jaw joint

*Misaligned or unstable bite can lead to muscles not working properly

*Jaw muscles working improperly may result in the muscles going into spasm

*Mental or physical stress can cause or make TMJ worse

*Clenching or grinding your teeth at night can tire jaw muscles and lead to pain

*Frequent headaches

Symptoms of TMJ

*Tenderness of jaw muscles

*Clicking or popping noises when opening or closing mouth

*Difficulty or pain when opening mouth

*Facial or jaw pain

*Ringing ears

*Jaw sticking or locking up

*Frequent headaches

*Pain in or around the ear

Diagnosing TMJ

At your dentist’s office, x-rays of your teeth and jaw can help determine if your problem is dental in nature.  If it is, procedures can be done to improve the alignment of your bite.  This may include the addition of crowns or a reforming of tooth surfaces.  If your problem is not dental in nature, your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist, oral surgeon, medical doctor, physical therapist or even a mental health professional.  Because other types of pain have been known to mimic a TMJ disorder, complete dental and medical exams are important steps in getting an accurate diagnosis.


There are several treatment options with TMJ.  If grinding your teeth is a problem, a type of splint may be custom-made to separate upper and lower teeth.  You may be instructed to wear it during the day or when asleep

Short-term solutions include:

*Prescription and nonprescription medicines

*Ice packs or heat packs to ease symptoms

*Switching to a soft diet

*Avoiding ice and chewing gum

*Cutting food in smaller pieces to help alleviate stress to the jaw

*Muscle stretching relaxation exercises

In rare cases, surgery is required to correct a TMJ disorder.  Surgery is generally considered to be an option only after other forms of treatment have been exhausted.

Early detection is the key to eliminating the symptoms of TMJ.  Many health-care professionals, especially dentists, keep up with the latest research and techniques for alleviating TMJ symptoms.  If you suspect you may have TMJ, your first step should be your dentist’s office.

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