Learn About TMJ Disorders

What is the definition of TMJ Disorders?

Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ disorders) are problems that affect the chewing muscles and joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull.

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What are the alternative names for TMJ Disorders?

TMD; Temporomandibular joint disorders; Temporomandibular muscle disorders; Costen's syndrome; Craniomandibular disorder; Temporomandibular disorder

What are the causes of TMJ Disorders?

There are 2 matching temporomandibular joints on each side of your head. They are located just in front of your ears. The abbreviation "TMJ" refers to the name of the joint, but it is often used to mean any disorders or symptoms of this region.

Many TMJ-related symptoms are caused by the effects of physical stress on the structures around the joint. These structures include:

  • Cartilage disk at the joint
  • Muscles of the jaw, face, and neck
  • Nearby ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves
  • Teeth

For many people with temporomandibular joint disorders, the cause is unknown. Some causes given for this condition are not well-proven. They include:

  • A bad bite or orthodontic braces.
  • Stress and tooth grinding. Many people with TMJ problems do not grind their teeth, and many who have been grinding their teeth for a long time do not have problems with their temporomandibular joint. For some people, the stress associated with this disorder may be caused by the pain, as opposed to being the cause of the problem.

Poor posture can also be an important factor in TMJ symptoms. For example, holding your head forward while looking at a computer all day strains the muscles of your face and neck.

Other factors that may make TMJ symptoms worse include poor diet and lack of sleep.

Many people end up having "trigger points." These are contracted muscles in your jaw, head, and neck. Trigger points can refer pain to other areas, causing a headache, earache, or toothache.

Other possible causes of TMJ-related symptoms include arthritis, fractures, dislocations, and structural problems present since birth.

What are the symptoms of TMJ Disorders?

Symptoms associated with TMJ disorders may be:

  • Biting or chewing difficulty or discomfort
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sound when opening or closing the mouth
  • Dull, aching pain in the face
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Jaw pain or tenderness of the jaw
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
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What are the current treatments for TMJ Disorders?

Simple, gentle therapies are recommended first.

  • Soft diet to calm the joint inflammation.
  • Learn how to gently stretch, relax, or massage the muscles around your jaw. Your provider, dentist, or physical therapist can help you with these.
  • Avoid actions that cause your symptoms, such as yawning, singing, and chewing gum.
  • Try moist heat or cold packs on your face.
  • Learn stress-reducing techniques.
  • Exercise several times each week to help you increase your ability to handle pain.
  • Bite analysis.

Read as much as you can on how to treat TMJ disorders, as opinion varies widely. Get the opinions of several providers. The good news is that most people eventually find something that helps.

Ask your provider or dentist about medicines you can use. These might include:

  • Short-term use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, naproxen (or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Muscle relaxant medicines or antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxant injections like toxin botulinum
  • Rarely, corticosteroid shots in the TMJ to treat inflammation

Mouth or bite guards, also called splints or appliances, have long been used to treat teeth grinding, clenching, and TMJ disorders. They may or may not help.

  • While many people have found them to be useful, the benefits vary widely. The guard may lose its effectiveness over time, or when you stop wearing it. Other people may feel worse pain when they wear one.
  • There are different types of splints. Some fit over the top teeth, while others fit over the bottom teeth.
  • Permanent use of these items may not be recommended. You should also stop if they cause any changes in your bite.

If conservative treatments do not work, it does not automatically mean you need more aggressive treatment. Use caution when considering treatment methods that cannot be reversed, such as orthodontics or surgery that permanently changes your bite.

Reconstructive surgery of the jaw, or joint replacement, is rarely required. In fact, the results are often worse than before surgery.

Who are the top TMJ Disorders Local Doctors?
Highly rated in

Jagiellonian University Medical College

Faculty Of Medicine, Jagiellonian University Medical College 
Krakow, MA, PL 31155

Malgorzata Pihut is in Krakow, Poland. Pihut is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of TMJ Disorders. She is also highly rated in 1 other condition, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are TMJ Disorders, Tension Headache, Mouth Ulcers, and Mouth Sores.

Highly rated in

University Of Siena

Siena, IT 

Daniele Manfredini is in Siena, Italy. Manfredini is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of TMJ Disorders. She is also highly rated in 5 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are TMJ Disorders, Temporomandibular Ankylosis, Osteoarthritis, and Arthritis.

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Highly rated in

University Of Padova

Treviso, IT 

Luca Nardini-Guarda is in Treviso, Italy. Nardini-Guarda is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of TMJ Disorders. He is also highly rated in 5 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are TMJ Disorders, Temporomandibular Ankylosis, Osteoarthritis, and Lichen Planus.

What are the support groups for TMJ Disorders?

You can get more information and find support groups through the TMJ Syndrome Association at www.tmj.org.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for TMJ Disorders?

For many people, symptoms occur only sometimes and do not last long. They tend to go away in time with little or no treatment. Most cases can be successfully treated.

Some cases of pain go away on their own without treatment. TMJ-related pain may return again in the future. If the cause is nighttime clenching, treatment can be very tricky because it is a sleeping behavior that is hard to control.

Mouth splints are a common treatment approach for teeth grinding. While some splints may silence the grinding by providing a flat, even surface, they may not be as effective at reducing pain or stopping clenching. Splints may work well in the short-term, but could become less effective over time. Some splints can also cause bite changes if they are not fitted properly. This may cause a new problem.

What are the possible complications of TMJ Disorders?

TMJ may cause:

  • Chronic face pain
  • Chronic headaches
When should I contact a medical professional for TMJ Disorders?

See your provider right away if you are having trouble eating or opening your mouth. Keep in mind that many conditions can cause TMJ symptoms, from arthritis to whiplash injuries. Experts who are specially trained in facial pain can help diagnose and treat TMJ.

How do I prevent TMJ Disorders?

Many of the home-care steps to treat TMJ problems can also help prevent the condition. These steps include:

  • Avoid eating hard foods and chewing gum.
  • Learn relaxation techniques to reduce overall stress and muscle tension.
  • Maintain good posture, especially if you work all day at a computer. Pause often to change position, rest your hands and arms, and relieve stressed muscles.
  • Use safety measures to reduce the risk for fractures and dislocations.
What are the latest TMJ Disorders Clinical Trials?
Methodology for Developing an Occlusal Appliance With CBD Active Carrier
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Effectiveness of the Use of Antidepressants in the Treatment of Muscle Type Temporomandibular Disorders
What are the Latest Advances for TMJ Disorders?
Effects of photobiomodulation associated with orofacial myofactional therapy on temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
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Neurophysiological aspects of isotonic exercises in temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : February 06, 2020
Published By : Michael Kapner, DDS, Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, Norwalk, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Indresano AT, Park CM. Nonsurgical management of temporomandibular joint disorders. In: Fonseca RJ, ed. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2018:chap 39.

Martin B, Baumhardt H, D'Alesio A, Woods K. Oral disorders. In: Zitelli BJ, McIntire SC, Nowalk AJ, eds. Zitelli and Davis' Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 21.

Okeson JP. Temporomandibular disorders. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2020. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:504-507.

Pedigo RA, Amsterdam JT. Oral medicine. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 60.