Last Updated: October 25, 2017

TMJ Disorders

Overview

Temporomandibular joint disorders (often called TMD) are painful conditions of the jaw joint and muscles of the head and neck. The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bones, and their hinge-like function is essential in activities such as chewing, talking, and swallowing.

temporomandibular joint

TMJ disorders are very common problems, which occur more frequently in women than men. Although some types of TMJ disorders result in severe symptoms, most cases are mild and resolve with self-care or minimal treatment.

Causes

Temporomandibular joint disorders may result from problems with the muscles and soft tissues around the joint or problems within the joint itself. Often, though, the specific cause of an individual’s TMJ disorder is unclear.

Symptoms

illustration of articular disc

The symptoms of TMJ disorders are often mild and typically come and go over a period of time. Most individuals experience short-term problems, although, some individuals develop persistent or severe pain.

The following are the most common symptoms associated with TMJ disorders:

Diagnosis and Treatment

Clinicians diagnose TMJ disorders based on a patient’s history, symptoms, and physical examination. Occasionally, x-rays are used to provide an image of the jaw and neck. Computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging are additional studies, which provide highly detailed images of the bones and soft tissues.

Most TMJ problems are temporary and resolve spontaneously with little or no treatment. For mild joint pain, self-care and conservative treatments are often very effective.

Treatment of minor TMJ disorders

Treatment of severe or chronic TMJ disorders

Prevention

Avoiding stress and teeth grinding helps prevent certain TMJ disorders. Maintenance of good posture prevents excessive straining of the facial and neck muscles and may decrease a person’s risk of developing TMJ problems. Additionally, healthy lifestyle habits such as relaxation techniques, proper diet, and adequate sleep are generally recommended as preventative health measures.

Sources

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Carla Hightower, MD

Dr. Hightower is an experienced physician who studied medicine at Northwestern University, where she also earned an MBA. As the founder of Living Health Works, she offers health coaching to individuals, private groups and corporations.