Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ/TMD)

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull on each side of your jaw. Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are disorders that develop from a variety of issues that can arise with the relationship between the upper and lower jaw and where they connect at the temporomandibular joint.  Temporomandibular disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. Temporomandibular disorders are one of the most common reasons for jaw pain. In most cases the pain from temporomandibular disorders can be relieved through self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments. Surgery is only needed in the most severe cases.

Common Causes of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

The temporomandibular joint is one of the most complex joints in your body. It’s not always clear what brings on TMJ disorders. The most common cause is when a small piece of cartilage in the joint slips out of place. Other causes of TMD include:


  • Stress
  • Excess jaw stimulation
  • Arthritis


However, many times, the cause of TMJ disorders isn’t clear.

Common Symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

The following symptoms can indicate TMD:

  • Jaw pain or tenderness
  • Aching pain around ear
  • Muscle fatigue or difficulty chewing
  • Pain while chewing
  • Difficulty opening or closing your jaw
  • Clicking or popping sound when chewing
  • Sleep apnea

The best way to determine if you have a temporomandibular disorder is by making an appointment with your dentist. They can then review your symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis and give you their recommended treatment plan. 

How to Prevent and Treat Temporomandibular Disorders

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should speak with your dentist.  Your dentist may recommend a variety of treatment options.

In some circumstances, medication options may help relieve the pain associated with TMJ disorders.  These options may include:

  • Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants

Other treatment options for TMJ disorders include, oral splints or mouth guards, physical therapy and counseling. If these methods don’t help, your dentist may recommend you to an oral surgeon for injections, jaw surgery or other procedures.

Who Treats Temporomandibular Disorders?

If you have persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw, or if you can’t open or close your jaw completely, contact your dentist for a consultation. Your general dentist can help diagnose and treat TMD. Your dentist can discuss possible causes and treatments for your problem. To find a dental office near you, visit our locations page.