Associates of Dental Arts
Dr. Gregory Kivett

TMJ

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is caused by problems with the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control jaw movement. The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the skull and is located in front of the ears. The jaw has a wide range of motion from side-to-side and up and down which allows us to talk, chew and yawn.  

What is TMJ?

If you suffer from TMJ, you will experience severe pain and discomfort.  This pain can last for several years or a few months.  Women experience TMJ pain more than men and the disorder is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20-40 years of age.

Some symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the face, neck and shoulders, jaw joint are, and in or around the ear when you move your jaw
  • Difficulty opening your mouth wide
  • Jaw getting “stuck” or “locking” when the mouth is in an open or closed position
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the joint
  • Chronic muscle fatigue in the face or neck
  • Difficulty chewing
  • An uncomfortable feeling when biting
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Toothaches
  • Headaches or neck aches
  • Dizziness
  • Earaches
  • Hearing problems
  • Upper shoulder pain
  • Ringing in the ears

What causes TMJ?

The main cause of TMJ is still unknown. Scientists believe the symptoms are caused by an issue with the muscles of the jaw or with parts of the joint.  

Some factors known to contribute to TMJ include:

  • Injuryto the mouth or jaw
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Clenching
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Malocclusion

Treatment Options for TMJ

TMJ symptoms will often stop on their own f you allow the jaw joint to rest. Home remedies for TMJ include taking anti-inflammatory medication (such as aspirin or Tylenol), applying warm compresses and eating soft foods.  

If your TMJ symptoms do not go away you may require medical treatment. The doctor can show you some exercises to stretch and relax the jaw. Sometimes a mouth guard (also known as a night guard or splint) can be worn to stop your jaw from clenching and grinding at night.

If your TMJ continues after these treatments, a cortisone shots may relieve inflammation and pain.  Botox can also relax your jaw muscles. A small percentage of patients with severe TMJ may need have surgery to replace the jaw joint with an artificial joint.  

The best thing to do is to make an appointment to review your treatment options.