What Causes TMJ and Is It Treatable?

The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the skull. Both sides of the head have this joint, allowing the jaw to open and close. It plays an important role in enabling people to eat and speak. When damaged or injured, this joint can cause a localized pain disorder known as a temporomandibular joint syndrome, or TMJ. 

What Are Temporomandibular Disorders?

TMD or TMJD is an abbreviation referring to a group of jaw-related health problems. These disorders tend to cause facial pain, tenderness at the joint, and difficulty moving the temporomandibular joint. 

As many as 10 million people in the U.S. suffer from TMJD, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Most of these disorders are treatable, but diagnosis is difficult due to the different possible causes.

What Is TMJ?

This is a pain in the joint connecting the mandible to the temporal bone. A variety of health issues can cause TMJ. It can be difficult to diagnose this disorder since no standard diagnostic tests for it exist. 

Your doctor will examine your jaw to determine whether there is tenderness or swelling. They may use various imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans of the jaw.

Causes of TMJ

In many cases, the causes of a TMJ disorder are unknown. Trauma or injury to the temporomandibular joint or jaw may play a role. Other health conditions may also contribute to the condition’s development. These include:

  • Problems with the structure of your jaw are present at birth.

  • Arthritis.

  • Habitual clenching or grinding of teeth.

  • Erosion of the lower jaw joint.

Experts often associate other factors with the development of the temporomandibular joint disorder. However, scientific studies are yet to prove this association. Some of these factors include lack of sleep, use of orthodontic braces, poor diet, and prolonged stress. According to experts, poor posture that strains the face and neck muscles can also lead to the development of TMJ.


The symptoms of this disorder depend on the cause and severity of your condition. The most common symptom is pain in your jaw and surrounding muscles. Other symptoms associated with TMJ disorder include:

  • Locking of the jaw.

  • Pain in the neck and face.

  • Popping or clicking sound from the site of the joint.

  • Limited jaw movement.

  • Stiffness in the jaw muscles.

You may experience these symptoms on one or both sides of your face. 

Is TMJ Disorder Treatable?

In some cases, your symptoms may disappear without treatment. Sometimes, you can treat the symptoms of TMJ with self-care home practices. These include eating soft foods, using jaw-stretching exercises, reducing your jaw movements, applying ice to reduce swelling, and avoiding chewing tough foods and gum.

If your symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend various treatment options. These include anti-inflammatory medication and pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants. Other treatment options include physical therapy, mouth guards or oral splints, and counseling. 

If all these treatments fail to help, your doctor will suggest various procedures. These include corticosteroid injections, modified condylotomy, arthrocentesis, TMJ arthroscopy, or open-joint surgery. It is important to discuss the potential pros and cons of each treatment option with your doctor.

To learn more about TMJ syndrome, visit Ofir Orthodontics at our office in Downey, California. You can call (562) 396-9820 today to schedule an appointment.

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