According to studies, over 15% of the American population suffers from some form of chronic facial pain in the form of headaches, jaw pain, ear pains, etc.

Out of those, around 10 million Americans suffer from jaw pains because of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), a condition that affects the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) on each side of the head in front of the ears. The TMJ is a hinge that connects the jaw to your head and it helps us eat, talk, and perform other functions requiring the mouth. In this article, we discuss what causes Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and TMJ diagnosis and treatment.

What Causes Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint is a complicated structure that involves both hinge and sliding actions, which is why it gets damaged easily. The parts of the bone that interact with this joint have cartilages and are separated by small discs in order to absorb shock. This ensures that all movement of the jaws remain smooth. However, a number of factors can damage the temporomandibular joint:

  • Erosion or misalignment of the small discs.
  • Damaged cartilages due to conditions like arthritis.
  • Injured or damaged jaws.

TMD may be caused by a number of different issues, some of which don’t even arise in the joints, which makes diagnosis difficult. Some of the factors that can lead to sudden TMJ pain include jaw injuries, damage to the head or neck, whiplash action, teeth grinding and bruxism, jaw dislocation, stress, bite misalignment, etc. All of these situations, and more, can lead to TMD.


Preventative Dentistry 

Symptoms of TMD and TMJ

The following are some of the most common symptoms of TMD and TMJ:

  • Tinnitus, i.e., ringing sensation in the ears.
  • Earaches.
  • Dizziness and headaches.
  • Facial pains.
  • Neck and shoulder pains.
  • Swollen face.
  • Muscle fatigue in the face.
  • Tender jaws.
  • Jaw pain that gets worse in the mornings or afternoons.
  • Difficulty while chewing, yawning, or generally opening your mouth.
  • Jaw pains while opening your mouth wide.
  • Locked or stuck jaws.
  • Clicking sound whenever you move the jaws.
  • Tooth sensitivity even if you have healthy teeth and gums.
  • Difficulty with chewing foods because your upper and lower teeth are misaligned.

Risk Factors for TMJ Disorders

The following are the primary risk factors for TMJ disorders:

  • Arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, increase the risk of TMD because they damage the cartilages.
  • Jaw injuries.
  • Chronic teeth grinding or clenching, also known as bruxism, which applies pressure on your jaws over an extended period.
  • Connective tissue diseases can also apply pressure on the TMJ.


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TMJ Diagnosis and Treatment

The symptoms of TMJ can also be caused by a number of other conditions. That’s why it’s necessary to go to a reputable dental clinic so they can study your unique condition and symptoms to determine if you really have TMD.


Most of the symptoms of TMD can also occur because of conditions like sinus issues, arthritis, gingivitis, tooth decay, etc. In order to rule them out, your dentist will discuss your medical history and ask you for a detailed list of your symptoms. You should answer all the questions clearly. Your dentist will also run physical exams in order to check your joints and listen for popping and grinding sounds. If the dentist suspects you do have TMD, they may recommend you get a CT scan, X-rays, or an MRI scan to be sure. Once it’s clear that you’re suffering from TMD, the dentist will proceed to TMJ treatments.

Medicinal TMJ Treatment

The dentist may prescribe some medications to deal with the TMJ pain such as pain relievers like ibuprofen, low doses of tricyclic antidepressants to help you sleep, and muscle relaxants that can relieve the muscle spasms caused by TMD.

Therapeutic TMJ Treatment

The following are some non-drug and non-surgical methods to treat TMD:

  • Mouth Guards: Dentists often recommend mouth guards or oral splints for people suffering from TMD. These are soft devices that you can wear on your teeth to prevent your upper and lower teeth from gnashing against each other. It can be useful if your TMJ is caused by bruxism.
  • Physical Therapy: Dentists can also recommend a number of different physical exercises with which you can strengthen your jaw muscles and gradually treat your TMD.
  • Counseling: TMD is often caused by bruxism, which, in turn, may be caused by psychological issues and stress. With counseling, you can understand the root cause of TMD and treat it gradually.

Surgical TMJ Treatment

Your dentist may also recommend a number of surgical treatments if the aforementioned methods don’t work. There are quite a few surgical TMJ treatment options such as Arthrocentesis. Corticosteroid Injections, TMJ Arthroscopy, Modified Condylotomy, and Open-Joint surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions about TMD/TMJ

How to treat TMJ?

There are a number of different ways to treat TMJ — taking medications, therapeutic, wearing mouth guards, or surgical options. Your dentist has to determine the root cause of TMJ before prescribing a treatment procedure.

What are signs and symptoms of TMJ?

Some of the signs and symptoms of TMJ include face joint aches, earaches, neck pains, headaches, tinnitus, locked jaws, difficulty while chewing and speaking, etc.

What are the causes of sudden TMJ pain?

You may experience sudden TMJ pain due to various causes, such as jaw injuries, jaw dislocation, bite misalignment, stress that leads to teeth clenching, bruxism, etc.

Do I really need a night guard for bruxism?

A night guard can be extremely helpful when you’re suffering from bruxism. It can provide some cushioning to your teeth to minimize the damage caused by teeth grinding.

Schedule an Appointment with one of the Best TMJ Dentist

At West Orem Dental, our dentists will run thorough tests to determine the root cause of TMD and then treat it using minimally invasive and simple procedures. If you have any other questions about TMJ, then please schedule an appointment with one of the best TMJ dental clinic.

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