TMJ Dysfunction

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

Abigail Lanham

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Anatomy and Disc Displacement Animation

A short description:

Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ disorders) are problems or symptoms of the chewing muscles and joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull.
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The effected muscles and bones:

  • Mandible
  • Temporal Bone
  • Disc
  • TM Joint
  • Temporalis Muscle
  • Masseter Muscle
  • Temporalis Muscle

Look at the pictures below for an example

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Signs and Symptoms

  1. Biting or chewing difficulty or discomfort
  2. Clicking, popping, or grating sound when opening or closing the mouth
  3. Dull, aching pain in the face
  4. Earache
  5. Headache
  6. Jaw pain or tenderness of the jaw
  7. Locking of the jaw
  8. Difficulty opening or closing the mouth

The Cycle of Pain

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Exams, Tests, Diagnostic Workup:

  • A dental exam to show if you have poor bite alignment
  • Feeling the joint and muscles or tenderness
  • Pressing around the head to locate areas that are sensitive or painful
  • Sliding the teeth from side to side
  • Watching, feeling, and listening to the jaw open and shut
  • X-rays or MRI of the jaw


Simple, gentle therapies are recommended first.

  • Learn how to gently stretch, relax, or massage the muscles around your jaw. Your doctor, dentist, or physical therapist can help you with these.
  • Avoid actions that cause your symptoms, such as yawning, singing, and chewing gum.
  • Try moist heat or cold packs on your face.
  • Learn stress-reducing techniques.
  • Exercising several times each week may help you increase your ability to handle pain.

Ask your doctor or dentist about medications you can use:

  • Short-term use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Muscle relaxant medicines or antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxant injections like toxin botulinum
  • Rarely, corticosteroid shots in the TMJ to treat inflammation

Mouth or bite guards, also called splints or appliances, have long been used to treat teeth grinding, clenching, and TMJ disorders.

  • While many people have found them to be useful, the benefits vary widely. The guard may lose its effectiveness over time, or when you stop wearing it. Other people may feel worse pain when they wear one.
  • There are different types of splints. Some fit over the top teeth, while others fit over the bottom teeth.
  • Permanent use of these items may not be recommended. You should also stop if they cause any changes in your bite.
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For many people, symptoms occur only sometimes and do not last long. They tend to go away in time with little or no treatment. Most cases can be successfully treated.

Some cases of pain go away on their own without treatment. TMJ-related pain may return again in the future. If the cause is nighttime clenching, treatment can be very tricky because it is a sleeping behavior that is hard to control.

Mouth splints are a common treatment approach for teeth grinding. While some splints may silence the grinding by providing a flat, even surface, they may not be as effective at reducing pain or stopping clenching. Splints may work well in the short-term, but could become less effective over time. Some splints can also cause bite changes if they are not fitted properly. This may cause a new problem.


By some estimates, temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJ) is fairly common, affecting more than 10 million people in the U.S. You may be more likely to get TMJ if you have rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, or fibromyalgia. Women are affected more often than men. Most people with TMJ are between the ages of 20 and 40.



Is when a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is a long-term disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues and can also affect other organs.