What is TMJ or TMD?

Jaw Pain and Its Causes

The joint in your jaw, which is located just in front of your ears, is called the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. The joint is complex and unique, and it enables your jaw to move up and down, sideways, and forward and backward. Problems can develop with this joint that can cause pain or other problems, and when there is a problem, it is called a temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMD.

Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction

When the jaw joint has problems, most likely, you are going to know it. You may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the jaw joint

  • Popping or clicking of the jaw

  • Earache

  • Pain in the jaw, face, or neck

  • Limited movement of the jaw

  • A feeling of tiredness in the jaw

  • Difficulty chewing

  • Possible swelling on the side of your face.

While the above symptoms are the major ones, there could be additional ones. These may include:

  • Toothaches

  • Dizziness

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Hearing problems

Causes of TMD

Jaw pain and other problems with TMD could have a multitude of causes. Here are some of them:

  • Arthritis – This disease can deteriorate the joint, causing it not to function correctly.

  • Injury to the jaw joint – A sudden blow to the joint or jaw can damage it, or cause it to become misaligned.

  • Grinding your teeth – Many people grind their teeth who do not know it. This is usually done at night while sleeping. It puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ which can make it tired during the day.

Another problem that often occurs along with teeth grinding is sleep apnea. This is another problem that many people who have it are not aware of. It is a serious breathing problem that could be fatal. Getting diagnosis and treatment quickly for it is important.

  • Clenching your teeth – Most people who engage in this habit are aware of it but may not connect it to TMJ pain. Like teeth grinding, it places pressure on your jaw for long periods, overworking your jaws, causing them to be tired.

Risk Factors

  • Stress, anxiety, and anger – These three elements are often the cause behind jaw problems. When you are under more stress, you are more likely to grind your teeth or clench your jaws. Stress and anxiety can also affect how well you sleep. If you have sleep apnea, stress will make it worse. It can also give you headaches.

  • Women have a much higher risk of getting TMD than men. Although more research is needed, estrogen may partly be to blame. Other conditions often present in women along with TMD include endometriosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and more.

Reducing TMD Pain

When you have TMJ pain, you want to reduce it as much as possible. Some things that you can do include:

  • Place ice or heat on the joint

  • Take over-the-counter NSAIDs for pain

  • Avoid wide yawning

  • Limit talking

  • Stay away from hard or chewy foods

  • Keep your lips closed and your teeth slightly apart

  • Practice good posture

  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.

Dental Damage

In addition to the possible pain that is caused by grinding teeth and clenching your jaw, there will also be considerable dental damage as well. Damage can include teeth that are worn down, chipped or cracked, and any cosmetic dentistry will likely be damaged.

Treatments for TMD

There are many treatments that are often used to help relieve TMJ pain. Among the treatments are non-surgical and surgical options.


  • Learning to relax – Patients who are often stressed need to be taught how to relax and ease the stress. Since stress is a major cause of TMD, learning how to reduce it is essential to relief. Being able to check on the position of your own jaws and teeth at various times of the day will help you to keep them apart.

  • Medications – Various types can be used to help bring TMJ pain relief. Muscle relaxants may also be used.

  • Jaw Exercises – Jaw exercises are useful to not only strengthen the muscles that have become weak, but it also helps to increase the mobility of the mouth.

  • Oral Splints and Mouth Guards – These devices help prevent teeth grinding and will enable correction of the bite.

  • Injections – Two kinds of injections may be used – steroid and Botox.


Prior to using any surgical options, it is most likely that non-surgical options will be used first. Once those have been exhausted, and depending on the problem, then surgery might become necessary.

This can include arthrocentesis to remove debris in the TMJ, or arthroscopic surgery which involves reshaping and smoothing of the disc. Open joint surgery may also be used to reshape the disc, but it also is used to replace it when necessary.

If you have TMJ dysfunction and are looking for pain relief from TMD, you can contact Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board Certified Periodontist. He can provide you with various TMJ remedies, as well as customized mouth guards and splints to help with teeth grinding. He has offices in the Carrollton, TX and Grapevine, TX areas. For a consultation with a TMJ specialist, you can contact his office today at (817) 756-8578.