TMJ Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Unexplainable headaches, vague toothaches, ear pain? It could be TMJ.

Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, collectively called ‘TMJ’, are multifaceted set of conditions characterized by pain in the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles that control jaw movement.

This typically affects twice as many women as men. Most cases respond to conservative treatment. Depending on the severity, TMJ can affect a person’s ability to chew, swallow, eat, yawn and even breathe.

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The TM joints, connecting the lower jaw (mandible) to the bone at the side of the head (temporal bone), are among the most complex joints in the body. These structures work together to facilitate many different smooth movements allowing the jaw to move up and down, side to side and the joints to glide and rotate.

Any setback that prevents this complex system from working properly may lead to a painful TMJ disorder.


Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck, such as a heavy blow or a bad fall may cause TMJ. It can also be caused by the pressure borne by bruxism (grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaws). People with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis may develop TMJ as a secondary condition.

Signs And Symptoms

  • radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck,
  • jaw muscle stiffness,
  • limited movement or locking of the jaw,
  • painful clicking or popping in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth,
  • a change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together.


Diagnosis is critical before any treatment, more importantly because other conditions including, toothaches, sinusitis or gum diseases, can cause similar symptoms to TMJ. Your dentist will examine your history and will conduct thorough clinical tests to determine the cause of your symptoms. Your dentist may also take x-rays to see how your upper and lower teeth fit together. Imaging test, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computer tomography (CT), may also be required to see if the TMJs are in proper position as your jaw moves.


Treatment may range from simple self-care practices, like applying cold packs on your face or taking pain medications, and other conservative treatments to injections and surgeries. Performing stress-reducing exercises, wearing night guards and mouth protectors and other orthodontic treatments are also helpful in treating TMJ disorders.

While there is a lot of information available about TMJ remedies, it is always best to consult your dentists for proper diagnosis. Only qualified dental practitioners can provide you with the most efficient therapies for TMJ.

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