A Look at the Causes and Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

Did you know that over 30 million Americans have a TMJ disorder?

TMJ disorders usually affect the jaw joint and muscles that control the jaw. If you are a woman you’re four times more likely to experience the symptoms of TMJ than men. When you’re affected by a TMJ disorder, it can be challenging to diagnose and treat due to the complexity of the temporomandibular joint.

Understanding the causes and symptoms of the disorder can help you seek treatment as soon as possible. Below is a comprehensive TMJ disorder guide that highlights the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of the condition.

What is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to your skull and allows your jaw to open and close, making it easy for you to speak and eat.

A TMJ disorder usually affects this joint, jaw muscles, and nerves associated with chronic facial pain.

Causes of TMJ

There are several causes of TMJ disorders. Some known causes include:

  • Physical injury or trauma
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth while asleep
  • Arthritis
  • Dental surgery
  • Structural jaw issues present at birth
  • Erosion of the joint
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Infections
  • Growth disorders
  • Dislocation of the disc between the ball and socket joint.
  • Stress
  • Bad bite

Symptoms of TMJ

There is a range of symptoms linked to TMJ disorders. Here are some of the most common symptoms:


When you have a TMJ disorder, you are most likely to feel pain when your jaw is moving. You may feel the pain while you’re talking, chewing, or yawning.

It can go away after a short period but if it persists, get TMJ treatment here. Other forms of pain you may experience include migraines, earaches, facial pain, neck ache, or backache.


Another common symptom of TMJ is an unusual clicking, popping, or grinding noise that occurs while you’re talking, eating, or opening your mouth. When these noises occur alongside limited jaw movement and pain, you should get TMJ treatment as soon as possible.

Buzzing and ringing of your ears alongside earaches can also be associated with TMJ disorders.

Dental Issues

Bruxism is closely connected to TMJ disorder. Excessive pressure and friction can wear down your teeth. What’s more, as your TMJ disorder progresses, your teeth’ alignment can change and lead to an improper bite.


TMJ disorders can also trigger swelling of your face and mouth. This can affect the way you speak or chew.

TMJ Treatment Options

In some circumstances, TMJ symptoms can go away without treatment. But if your symptoms persist, you may need treatment. Below are some treatment options for TMJ disorders:


These medication options can help offer relief for pain linked to TMJ disorders:

  • Anti-inflammatories and pain relievers: Your doctor or dentist can prescribe ibuprofen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: They include low doses of amitriptyline for bruxism, pain relief, and sleeplessness
  • Muscle relaxants: These drugs offer relief for pain caused by TMJ disorders created by muscle spasms

Depending on your medical history and personal condition, your doctor will help you decide which medication is best for you.


Occasionally, your doctor may recommend therapy. Here are some nondrug therapies for TMJ disorders:

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Heat therapy
  • Cooling therapy
  • Radio wave therapy
  • Counseling and stress management

Surgical Procedures

When other treatments aren’t effective, your doctor may suggest surgical procedures such as:

  • Arthrocentesis: Using fluid through tiny needles, this procedure helps remove debris and inflammatory byproducts in your joint
  • Arthroscopy: A small thin tube (arthroscope) is placed into the joint space to check, diagnose, and treat the causes of TMJ disorders
  • Open-joint surgery (arthrotomy): Riskier than arthroscopy, doctors use this surgery to repair, replace, or remove parts of the TMJ

Non-Surgical Treatments

Non-surgical TMJ treatments comes with less risks. You can get relief with the following:

  • Oral splints or mouth guards: Wearing these oral apparatus stabilize the jaw to help with clenching, grinding, or malocclusion
  • Injections: For some people, corticosteroid injections into the joint or Botox injections into the jaw muscles can help
  • Acupuncture: It involves inserting thin needles into your body at various points to stimulate your body’s natural healing processes

TMJ Prevention

In some cases, you can reduce the risk of TMJ disorders. Here are some ways that you can prevent TMJ issues:

Avoid Chewing Gum

While you enjoy chewing gum, it can contribute to excessive use and stress on your joint and jaw muscles. This can often lead to TMJ pain.

Limit Eating Hard Foods

Hard foods like bagels may place excessive stress on your jaw muscles, preventing the TMJ joint from getting the necessary rest for proper healing. Give your jaw a break by opting for softer foods.

Avoid Resting on Your Chin

Do you tend to place your jaw in your hands while studying or watching TV?

While the position may be comfortable, it can cause the pressure against the side of your jaw to push against the joint. This can cause the disc to move out of place, creating issues with how your jaw opens and closes.

Stop Chewing Only On One Side

Chewing on one side can start due to having dental issues on one side. When this happens, it can stress out one side of your TMJ, leading to pain and joint dysfunction.

Stop Slouching

Your jaw works well when your posture is right and your head is above your cervical spine. If you slouch, it can affect how your jaw muscles and can lead to TMJ pain.

Find Ways to Destress

Stress can be a factor in TMJ disorder, especially if you clench your jaw or grind your teeth often. Medication, yoga, stretches, and massages can help you relax.

Get Professional Treatment for TMJ Disorders

Symptoms of TMJ disorder can be mild or severe. Whether you experience mild or severe symptoms, professional advice is essential for treatment. To learn more about interesting health and lifestyle issues, browse our blog categories.

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