TMJ GUIDE: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

TMJ GUIDE: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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, Symptoms and Treatment 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:


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.


Adolescent girls may suffer from TMJ due to changes in their estrogen levels. TMJ usually occurs when estrogen is present in the receptors in the temporomandibular joint.


Some conditions, including Reiter's syndrome, Jorgens, 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 elongate and allow the disc to easily slip out of position.


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.


Traumatic arthritis is known to lead to inflammation. This makes it difficult for patients like seniors to open cans and do other tasks. 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 about 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 underwater.

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 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:


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.


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 the pain caused by TMJ. The care involves correcting the misalignment between the nervous system and the spline. Chiropractic care does not involve a 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 relieve 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 mouthguards available over the counter that can reposition the jaw to reduce clicking. The mouth guards for teeth grinding also help with cognitive behavioural habit control and myofascial pain. Custom mouthguards 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.


Some medications that are used in the treatment of TMJ disorders include Neuropathic medications, Medrol and muscle relaxants. If your pain increases at night 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, steam, heat and cold are also used. Some therapists also find craniosacral therapy helpful.

BOTOX Injections / Trigger Point Injections

Trigger point injection therapy involves injection 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 such as Formlabs Form 2 3D printer 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 infections, which cause inflammation and infection of the middle ear.

teeth grinding in childrenWhen a child is sleeping, you expect to hear him/her breathing easily, and perhaps an occasional sigh. However, instead of these, you may be hearing the sounds of gnashing or grinding teeth. This grinding of teeth in children is known as bruxism. The condition is common in many children.

About Bruxism in Children

The medical term of the grinding or gnashing of teeth or the clenching of jaws is bruxism. Teeth grinding in children is common in many families. It's estimated that about 30 percent of children grind teeth. However, majority of them outgrow the condition.

Kids usually grind teeth when under stress or during deep sleep phases.

Causes of Bruxism in Children

Medical experts are not certain why some children grind their teeth. Sometimes, the grinding may be due to misalignment of the top and bottom teeth. In other cases, the grinding may be due to a response to pain, such as from teething or an earache. Grinding the teeth may be a way of easing the pain, just like they may rub a sore muscle. In most cases, kids outgrow these common causes of grinding.

Another cause of teeth grinding in children is stress- usually anger o nervous tension. For example, a child may worry about a change in routine (a new teacher or a new sibling) or a test in school. Sometimes, arguments with parents and siblings can also cause enough stress that will lead to jaw clenching or teeth grinding.

Bruxism is also common among children that are hyperactive. The condition can also be manifested among children that take certain medicines or those with certain conditions (for example, cerebral palsy).

Effects of Bruxism on Teeth

Some cases of bruxism may be undetected but lead to no ill effects. However, others can cause headaches. However, teeth grinding is usually more bothersome to other family members because of the grinding sound.

In some serious cases, nighttime grinding and clenching can cause severe facial pain, increase temperature sensitivity, chip teeth, wear down tooth enamel and lead to jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ). However, TMJ only occurs in severe teeth grinding cases. Most kids who grind their teeth do not have TMJ problems.

How to Diagnose Bruxism

Majority of children that grind their teeth are not even aware of it. In most cases, it is their parents or siblings that identify the problems. Below are some signs you should watch out for in your child:

  • Pain when chewing
  • Complaints of a sore face or jaw after waking up in the morning
  • You hear grinding noises when the child is sleeping

You should take your child to a TMJ dentist when you hear him/her grinding the teeth. The dentist will examine the child's teeth for unusual wear and tear or chipped enamel. The teeth will also be sprayed with water to check for unusual sensitivity.

If the teeth are found to have some damage, the doctor may ask your child a few questions such as:

  • What do you do before going to bed?
  • Are you feeling angry about anything or with someone?
  • Are you worried about anything at home or in school?
  • How do you usually feel when you go to bed?

After carrying out the exam, the dentist can determine the teeth grinding is caused by stress (psychological) or misaligned teeth (anatomical) problems. The dentist will then come up with an effective treatment depending on the cause of the grinding.

How to Treat Bruxism

The majority of children stop grinding teeth as they grow up. However, a combination of parental observation and dental visits can help to keep the problem in check.

If the grinding damages the teeth or makes the children jaw and face sore, the dentist can prescribe a TMJ mouth guard for the child. This is a special night guard that is molded to the child's teeth but looks similar to sports mouth guards. Initially, the child may find it uncomfortable to wear the mouth guard. However, with time, positive results will be realized.

Helping Kids With Bruxism

Whether your child is grinding teeth due to psychological or physical reasons, there are different ways that you can help him/her ease the condition. For example, reading a book, listing to soothing music for a few minutes o taking a warm shower in a good freestanding tub before bedtime can help the child relax.

If your childs teeth grinding is caused by stress, find out what your child may be upset about and help him/her. For instance, if your child is worried about being away from home for a first camping trip, you can reassure him/her that mom and dad will be nearby if needed.

If the stress is as a result of more complicated issues, for example, moving to a new school or town, talk with the child and discuss his/her concerns. Try to ease any fears the child may have. If you are concerned about the situation, you can talk to your doctor.

Most of the time, basic stress relievers will be enough to stop bruxism in children. If your child is acting differently from usual or has trouble sleeping, your doctor or dentist may recommend further evaluation. The evaluation can help to determine the underlying cause of the stress, after which an appropriate treatment plan can be devised.

How Long Does Bruxism Last?

Majority of children stop grinding their teeth as soon as they lose the baby teeth. However, some kids may continue grinding way into their teenage years. Moreover, if the teeth grinding is caused by stress, it will continue until the stress is addressed.

How to Prevent Bruxism

Most cases of bruxism cannot be prevented since they are usually a child's natural reaction to growth and development. However, if the teeth grinding or jaw clenching in the child is as a result of stress, you have a preventive role to play. You should talk with your children regularly to find out how they feel and help them cope with stress. Apart from this, taking children for routine visits to the dentist can help to find and treat bruxism.

How Long Does TMJ Treatment Take?

The time 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 Near You

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 doctors 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 specialists directory to find top rated doctors and dentists that are specialized in treating teeth grinding conditions.

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