Home TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

January, 2017. Are you suffering from TMJ? If so, you are among the millions of people from around the world that grind their teeth during the day or at night. Studies have shown that over 10 million Americans have TMJ. Most people with TMJ disorder do not know they are suffering from the condition and hence do not seek treatment in time.

When TMJ is not treated in time, it can lead to various dental problems, including loss of teeth.

Causes of TMJ

TMJ can result due to various pre-existing conditions you may have. Some people start grinding their teeth when in their formal years while others suffer from TMJ as adults. Below are some known causes of TMJ:

  • Bruxism: This is a movement disorder that occurs when you are sleeping. The jaw movement leads to a repetitive strain type injury and increases muscle pain.
  • Estrogen: Adolescent girls may suffer from TMJ due to changes in their estrogen levels. TMJ usually occures when estrogen is present in the receptors in the temporomandibular joint.
  • Autoimmune: Some conditions, including Reiter’s syndrome, Sjogrens, Lupus, psoriatic arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and seronegative arthritis are known to cause pain in the jaws.
  • Loose joints: If your jaw joints are loose, the ligaments can elongare and allow the disc to easily slip out of position.
  • Trauma: Macro trauma, wisdom tooth extraction, intubation, blows to the chin, and bad falls, can lead to joint strain or sprain.
  • Lack of sleep: Not getting enough sleep can lead to widespread pain and fatigue. However, the pain and fatigue can disappear with 7-8 hours of deep restorative sleep.
  • Arthritis:Traumatic arthritis is known to lead to inflammation. The inflammation can be localized at the jaws and cause TMJ.

Symptoms of TMJ

TMJ is commonly known as teeth grinding. Majority of people that suffer from TMJ grind their teeth either knowingly or unknowingly. This is why the condition is commonly referred to as teeth grinding.

TMJ manifests itself in individuals through a number of symptoms. Most people with TMJ experience a debilitating headache. In severe cases, some patients report some form of facial pain.

If you are not treated on time, your TMJ condition can worsen. It is advisable to see a TMJ dentist as soon as possible to get your condition treated. If the condition is not treated properly or on time, your jaws can be damaged or become inflamed. Apart from this, the teeth can break down and make the muscles contract. Serious jaw damage usually leads to facial, neck and head pains.

To treat your condition, a TMJ dentist may prescribe a mouth guard meant to prevent teeth grinding. If your jaws were severely damaged, they will have to be surgically aligned. Otherwise, the wear and tear of the teeth will continue when you are yawning, swallowing, chewing, speaking, even while sleeping.

Are you concerned whether you are suffering from TMJ? The following symptoms can help you know whether you should visit a TMJ specialist for assessment:

  • Persistent or intermittent headaches 
  • Pain in the ears. For example, you may experience hearing loss, ringing in the ears, or feeling you are “under water”.
  • Clicking sound in the jaws. There is a disc between the mandible and temporal bone in the temporomandibular (TM) joint . This disc can get out of place and cause a clicking sound when opening and closing. Persistent clicking can lead to grating and locking.
  • Locked jaws. When the disc in the TM joint is displaced, it may not get back into place. As a result, your jaw will be locked and have very limited motion.
  • Popping on the jaws. Some clicking can be popping or staccato by nature.
  • Pain on the jaws. While jaw pain can be as a result of different things, the most common reason is dental. When you visit a TMJ specialist, he or she will test you to determine whether the pain is caused by a root canal, periodontal disease or dental decay. Your pain may be caused by the jaw muscles. You may also experience jaw pain from the neck.

The jaw and ear have an intimate connection and this is why jaw pains may be accompanied by ear pains. People suffering from TMJ may also experience shoulder and neck pain. 

Ear Pain Symptoms of TMJ

If you have been suffering consistent ear pains, chances are that they are related to TMJ. Here is a list of pains that may indicate you suffer from TMJ: 

  • Tinnitus: This refers to a ringing noise in the ears or head. The pain is manifested through a high pitched whining, whistling, humming, screaming, electric, hissing or buzzing sound. Tinnitus can come and go or it can be continuous. An easy way to get relief of tinnitus is by adjusting the position of the jaw, tongue, head or shoulder. A TMJ specialist can advise you on the specific tinnitus treatment that will work for you.
  • Ear ache: If the TMJ doctor has ruled out ear pathology or infection, he or she can evaluate the head and neck muscles – as well as the temporomandibular joint itself –for referral to the ear.
  • Ear Sensitivity: This can occur when the ear is overly sensitive to certain frequency ranges of sound. If you have a sensitive ear, you will find it difficult to adapt to seemingly-loud, everyday sounds.

Other common symptoms of TMJ include loss of balance of feeling unsteady, floating or a swimming sensation, light-headedness, faintness and dizziness.

How to Treat TMJ

There are various ways in which TMJ can be treated. The treatment that a specialist will prescribe will depend on the severity of your condition. In most cases, the TMJ specialist will customize your treatment. TMJ treatments can be classified under chiropractic care and orthotic therapy.

i) Chiropractic care

Chiropractic care can be used to ease pain caused by TMJ. The care involves correcting the misalignment between nervous system and the spline. Chiropractic care does not involve change of diet or modifying of the teeth.

Instead, it makes the muscles relax, uses specific trigger points to re-position the jaw and adjusts the joint. Depending on the extent of your condition, this treatment can be used alone or as a complement to other treatments. When done successfully, the treatment helps to relive pain in the short run and also prevent TMJ from occurring again.

ii) Orthotic therapy

This therapy requires an unobtrusive oral device to be worn by the patient. The device is shaped to look like your natural teeth and when in place, achieves your ideal bite. Commonly known as teeth braces, the device will stop further wear of the teeth when worn. Apart from this, braces prevent bite-related concerns from progressing. Over time, the device helps to reduce TMJ symptoms and eliminate ear pain.

Below are the common treatments for teeth grinding:

  • Mouth Guards: There are different types of mouth guards available over the counter that can reposition the jaw to reduce clicking. The mouth guards for teeth grinding also help with cognitive behavioral habit control and myofascial pain. Custom mouth guards can also be used during treatment
  • Night Mouth Appliances: TMJ disorders are usually diagnosed together with breathing related sleep disorders. Special teeth grinding products such as night guards can be prescribed in these cases.
  • Medications:Some medications that are used in treatment of TMJ disorders include: Neuropathic medications, Medrol and muscle relaxants. If your pain increases at nigh due to teeth clenching, you can be prescribed a sedative.
  • Chiropractic TMJ Treatments: Applied kinesiology, ART, SOT, atlas orthodontist, and cranial therapy are all used. Foot orthotics can also be prescribed when needed.
  • Physical Therapy for TMJ: Manual physical therapy can be used in myofascial release, mobilization of the TMJs, and deep muscle therapy. Feldenkrais,Postural correction, ultrasound, cold laser, the Alexander technique, stim, heat and cold are also used. Some therapists also find craniosacral therapy  helpful.
  • BOTOX™ Injections / Trigger Point Injections: Trigger point injection therapy involvesinjection of a local anesthetic into tender points to eliminate pain and re-educate the muscles. With BOTOX treatment, you will get relief from TMJ within 3 to 8 months.
  • TMJ Imaging: TMJ doctors utilize the latest in maxillofacial imaging to get 3D images of the temporomandibular joint and skull. Advanced imaging equipment give crystal clear images of the TMJs in different views.

TMJ doctors also offer advanced treatment of ear pain caused by TMJ. There are a variety of conditions that can affect your hearing. The most common are ear infection, which cause an inflammation and infection of the middle ear.

How Long Does TMJ Treatment Take?

The length it will take for your TMJ condition to be cured varies depending on a number of factors. For some people, TMJ symptoms resolve instantly after treatment. For others, it may take months before their symptoms disappear. Every person responds differently to TMJ treatment.

However, most people will experience an improvement in their TMJ symptoms within a few weeks. To complete the treatment long term, a full orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign invisible braces can be used to permanently correct your bite.

Find a TMJ Dentist in Your State

The TMJ specialists we have listed on our website have been vetted and are licensed to operate in your state. The specialists have earned prestigious medical awards over the years and are considered the best TMJ doctors in their states.

Majority of the TMJ dentists on our site have excellent ratings on trusted sites including RateMDs, MakeMeHeal, Vitals, Google+, HealthGrades, and other doctor’s services rating websites.

The doctors on our website are nationally recognized as best in class leaders (TMJ Dentists and TMJ Specialist Doctors) in treating and curing TMJ quickly. You can browse our TMJ specialist’s directory to find top rated doctors and dentists that are specialized in treating teeth grinding conditions.


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