Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) Disorders – Symptoms and Causes

What is Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint between the lower jaw bone (mandible) and your skull. The joint is located on both sides of the head before the ears. This helps to open and close your jaw, allowing you to talk and eat.

The abbreviation TMJ was also used to identify a group of health issues associated with your jaw, but it becomes more commonly abbreviated as TMD or TMJD to differentiate the temporomandibular joint itself from TMJ disturbances. These disorders may result in joint sensitivity, facial pain and joint displacement problems.

As per the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, TMJD affects approximately 10 million Americans. It is more common in females than males. Such disorders may be treated, but there are several possible causes. It can be difficult to diagnose.

You can read more about TMJD. You may want to talk to your physician about any concerns.

What causes Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder?

In many cases, it is unclear what causes the TMJ disorder. Traumatic jaw or joint injury can play a role. There are also other health concerns that can lead to the development of TMJD. These include:

  • arthritis
  • abrasion of the articulation.
  • Usual grinding or gripping of the teeth.
  • difficulties in the structure of the jaw at birth.

There are other factors that are usually associated with the development of the TMJD, but there is no evidence that they cause TMJD. These include:

  • long term stress
  • poor diet
  • orthodontic braces use
  • bad posture which stretches the muscles of the neck and face.
  • sleep apnea

Symptoms of Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?

The symptoms of TMJ disorders are dependent on the seriousness and cause of your condition. The most common symptom of TMJD is pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles. Other symptoms Commonly associated with such disorders include:

  • pain which may be experienced in the face or neck.
  • stiffness in the jawbone muscles.
  • reduced movement of the jaw.
  • locking of the jaw
  • clicking or popping sound from the TMJ site
  • change in jaw position, change the way the top and bottom teeth align (referred to as malocclusion)

Symptoms can develop from one or both sides of the face.

How is Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) diagnosed?

TMJ conditions can be challenging to diagnose. No specific tests exist to diagnose these problems. Your physician may refer you to a dentist or an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) for a diagnosis.

Your doctor can check your jaw for swelling or sensitivity if you have symptoms of TMJ. There are various imaging tests that your doctor can use. These tests may consist of the following:

  • X-rays of the jaw
  • Computed tomography of the jawbone to monitor bone and joint tissue.
  • MRI of the jaw to see if the jaw structure is complicated.

How is Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) treated?

In most cases, symptoms of TMJ can be addressed through self-care practices at home. To help with the symptoms of TMJ, you may:(1)

  • eat soft foods
  • apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • jaw movements decrease
  • prevent chewing gum and hard foods.
  • reduce the stress level.
  • Perform jaw stretching exercises to assist in the improvement of jaw movement.

You may need the help of your doctor if your symptoms do not get better as a result of these treatments. According to your symptoms, your doctor can prescribe or suggest the following:

In a few cases, Your physician may recommend surgical or other procedures to treat your condition. Procedures are as follows:

  • painkillers (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen)
  • medicines for relaxing jaw muscles (such as Flexeril, Soma or Valium)
  • medicines to help decrease swelling in the jaw (corticosteroid drugs)
  • stabilizer splints or tooth guards to stop grinding of teeth.
  • Botox to reduce tension in the jawline muscles and nerves.
  • cognitive behavioural therapy that helps reduce stress.
  • Corrective dental treatment for improved bite and alignment of teeth.
  • arthrocentesis, that is, removal liquid and joint debris.
  • surgical replacement of the joint.

The procedures used to address this condition can, in certain cases, can make your symptoms worse. Check with your doctor about possible risks from these procedures.

How can Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) be prevented?

It is possible that you cannot stop the development of TMJD, but you may be able to reduce symptoms by handling your stress level. It might help to try to stop grinding your teeth if you have a problem with that. Possible approaches to tooth squeaking include wearing an oral protector at night and taking muscle relaxants. You can also help prevent the grinding of teeth by reducing overall stress and anxiety through counselling, exercise and diet.


The interpretation of an TMJ condition is dependent on the cause of the problem. TDD can be successfully treated in a number of people with home remedies, like changing posture or relieving stress. If your condition is due to a chronic (long-term) illness such as arthritis, lifestyle changes may not be sufficient. Arthritis can wear out the joint over time and make it more painful.

Most TMJD cases warrant lifestyle changes, possibly in combination with medications to relieve pain and discomfort. Aggressive therapies are sometimes needed. Discuss your options with your doctor to decide which treatment is right for you.

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