Table of Content:

What is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder?

Teeth grinders and those with multiple missing teeth are particularly susceptible to developing TMJ problems

TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that is responsible for opening and closing your mouth. We all have a left and a right TMJ joint that work together to control our jaw movement. Trauma and wear and tear can cause damage to the temporomandibular joints. TMJ disorders are responsible for migraine headaches, jaw stiffness, and head and neck-related problems.  People who grind their teeth aggressively and those with multiple missing teeth are particularly susceptible to developing TMJ disorders.

What is TMJ assessment?

TMJ problems can lead to migraine headaches and stiff head and neck.

A TMJ assessment is an important part of any comprehensive dental examination. Early diagnosis of TMJ disorders can allow for comprehensive and effective treatment. Here’s what a typical TMJ exam entails:

Head and neck pain or discomfort

Your dentist will start your TMJ assessment by asking general questions. This includes whether you’re experiencing frequent headaches or suffer from facial pain and discomfort.

Joint tenderness

Your dentist will perform a head and neck exam to evaluate your TMJ status. This includes looking for signs of stiffness, tenderness, and other early signs of TMJ disorder.

Alterations in jaw movement

Your dentist will evaluate your TMJ by having you open, close, and move your jaws side-to-side and in and out. Your dentist will observe for pathway alterations, known as deviation or deflection, which signal early TMJ disorder.

Abnormal noises

Abnormal noises are another potential sign of TMJ disorders. TMJ noises, known as clicking, popping, or crepitus, could be early signs of disk derangement or arthritis.

How do you treat TMJ disorders?

If you’re suffering from TMJ disorder then you may have to seek treatment. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, your condition could worsen and lead to serious complications. There are several different treatment modalities for treating TMJ abnormalities. This includes medications, physical therapy, oral appliances, and joint repair surgery for the worst cases. Here’s a bit more information about how you can treat TMJ disorders:


NSAIDs (Motrin), muscle relaxants, and tricyclic antidepressants are helpful medications for treating minor TMJ pain. These medications reduce inflammation of the TMJ joints which may reduce pain in your joints. For more advanced TMJ disorders, you can have medications directly injected into the joint area to relieve tension and stress. BOTOX® is one of those medications that is injected to relieve jaw tension which helps with reducing TMJ pain.

Physical therapy

Try doing joint exercises and applying heat/cold to relieve the pressure in your jaw joints. You can also try a soft diet to see if it improves your symptoms. Counseling can also help you identify and eliminate sources of destructive habits to better protect your jaw joints.

Wearing a nightguard

Most people suffering from TMJ disorders wear a custom nightguard to protect their joints from the harmful effects of nighttime grinding. Wearing a nightguard relieves the pressure exerted onto your joints and protects against destructive grinding forces.

Dental specialists

It might not be a bad idea to see an orthodontist to see if improving your bite relationship can help your TMJ condition. Similarly, if you have multiple missing teeth, you should consider placing dental implants to improve your bite relationship. Most TMJ disorders stem from a poor bite relationship and correcting your bite relationship can improve your condition. You may also want to remove your wisdom teeth if the pressure from your wisdom teeth are negatively impacting your TMJ.


If your TMJ does not respond to the above treatment modalities, then a more aggressive approach may be required. One option is to perform arthoscopic surgery. Naturally, you would want to exhaust all your other resources before resorting to surgery.

How do I get started?

Search for a dentist who focuses on TMJ disorders and orofacial pain

Contact your dentist if you suspect that you’re suffering from TMJ disorders. We will evaluate your TMJ and look for signs and symptoms of joint pain or arthritis. Treating TMJ disorders is a long-term project and requires patience, diligence, and trial and error. However, there is a remedy out there and you shouldn’t have to suffer from jaw pain.