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An Overview of TMJ Disorders


Updated: April 30, 2008

An Overview of TMJ Disorders
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About TMJ:

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the ball and socket joint that connects the lower jaw to the bone on each side of the head. The temporomandibular joint is stabilized by muscles that make it possible to open and close the mouth. Pain, discomfort or tenderness in or around these joints are referred to as a TMJ disorder.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 10 million people are affected by TMJ disorders. TMJ disorders are more common in women than men.

Signs and Symptoms of TMJ Disorders:

Common signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders can include:
  • tenderness or pain in the face, jaw and ear
  • chewing discomfort or difficulty chewing
  • headaches
  • painful clicking of the jaw
  • difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • locking jaw or teeth that don't come together properly while biting or chewing

Causes of TMJ Disorders:

The causes of TMJ disorders are controversial, and more research is needed to determine the exact causes. Most experts do agree, however, that trauma to the jaw is one cause of TMJ disorders. Some experts also believe that anxiety, stress and rheumatoid arthritis also play a role in TMJ disorders.

Diagnosing TMJ Disorders:

Even though there are no widely accepted tests for TMJ disorders, your dentist can do an examination by checking your muscles and joints for tenderness, popping, clicking, and difficulty opening and closing your mouth. Your dentist may also take x-rays and a mold of your mouth to see how your teeth fit together.

Since other problems, such as sinus headaches and earaches, can cause facial pain, it's a good idea to have your doctor rule out these problems.

Treating TMJ Disorders :

Sometimes, the symptoms of TMJ disorders will go away on their own. If the symptoms persist, your dentist might recommend conservative treatments such as reducing stress, avoiding gum chewing and wide yawning, applying ice packs to the painful area, practicing jaw exercises and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.

Some dentists may recommend more aggressive treatment, such as orthodontics or surgery. In my opinion, since the treatment of TMJ disorders vary widely and are so controversial, I believe that it would be a good idea to get a second opinion before undergoing aggressive treatment.

TMJ Disorders: The Future:

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research is currently conducting an in-depth study about TMJ disorders to get a better understanding of the condition, which could lead to more accurate diagnosis and treatments.


National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research TMJ Disorders and The Mayo Clinic TMJ Disorders. 30 April 2008.

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