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What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

TMJ is an acronym for the temporomandibular joint. Your temporomandibular joints are located on both sides of your face, right in front of your ears. TMJ is the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint, which is the connection point between the lower jaw (mandible) and the skull at the temporal bone, located just in front of the ear. The TMJ is a flexible hinge joint that allows the jaw to move both up and down as well as side to side. Thanks to the range of movement allowed by the joint, we can chew, talk, and yawn.

If you experience persistent pair in the area near your ears, your jaw, or the muscles located on the side of your face, possibly coupled with a clicking or popping noise or restricted jaw functions or movement, then you may be suffering from a temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. Contact a dentist in Gainesville, FL, with Van Dyke General and Implant Dentistry to learn more about TMJ disorder, our available general dentistry services, and to schedule TMD or TMJ disorder treatment to help alleviate your TMD symptoms.

What Is TMD?

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMD or TMJ disorder describes a group of conditions characterized by pain and dysfunction of the temporomandibular joints and/or the muscles surrounding them. TMJ disorder is a chronic degenerative disease that affects up to 75 million people in the United States. The disease often develops over an extended period, usually many years, due to a misaligned bite, grinding or clenching the teeth, or jaw injuries.

Over time, an uneven bite leads to a structural imbalance between the jaw and the skull. TMJ discomfort is often caused by the muscles and tendons that connect the lower jaw and the skull. If discomfort and pain worsen over time, it may indicate TMD. This condition can be acute or chronic, and the resulting pain can range from mild-to-severe. Temporomandibular joint disorder can occur due to a variety of different reasons and, though pain is the most commonly reported symptom, symptoms of this condition can vary in type and severity from patient-to-patient.

Symptoms Of TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder symptoms can vary in severity from a tired feeling in the face to the jaw becoming stuck or locked, rendering movement or use of the jaw virtually obsolete. Because the temporomandibular joint is located by and connected to the ear, the symptoms can sometimes range far beyond the face, jaw, or neck and affect the entire body as well as the face.

Some of the most common TMJ symptoms include the following.

  • TMJ pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Earaches / TMJ ear pain
  • Painful clicks or pops
  • Facial pain
  • Swelling at the hinge between skull and jaw
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck aches
  • Toothaches
  • Uncomfortable bite or difficulty chewing
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches / TMJ migraine
  • Limited opening or movement of the mouth
  • Tooth pain
  • Jaw that locks in the open- or closed-mouth position
  • A tired feeling in the face
  • Pain in the shoulders

Girl With TMJ Disorder In Gainesville

Common TMD Symptoms

The symptoms of TMD can vary in severity from a tired feeling in the face to a stuck or locked jaw. Because the TMJ is located by and connected to the ear, sometimes the symptoms can range far beyond the face, jaw or neck and affect the entire body.

  • Earaches
  • Painful clicks or pops
  • Facial pain
  • Swelling at the hinge between skull and jaw
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck aches
  • Toothaches
  • Uncomfortable bite or difficulty chewing
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Limited opening or movement of the mouth

Where Is TMJ Pain Felt?

TMJ disorders can cause symptoms to develop virtually anywhere in the body. Temporomandibular joint pain can affect the jaw joint as well as the tissues and mussels that surround and control jaw movement and function. TMJ-related jaw pain can be felt at the temples, extending all the way down to the sides of the upper jaw area and beyond.

In some patients, instead of sensations of pain from their TMJ disorder, the patient experiences a deep feeling of discomfort, often characterized as feeling as though they jaw is out of proper alignment with the rest of their face and body. If you feel pain in your jaw or elsewhere, it’s important that you seek treatment from a medical specialist, such as a TMJ doctor with Van Dyke General and Implant Dentistry. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment for TMJ disorder treatment.

What Causes TMJ?

TMJ disorder causes can include an injury or multiple injuries to the jaw joints or the tissues which surround the jaw and jaw joints. TMJ disfunctions can develop in individuals of any age, sex, race, or life stage, though it is typically more common in women than in men in their young-to-middle years of adulthood. As with any other joint in the body, the TMJ can be subject to a variety of orthopedic issues, disc problems, and strains in the tendons and ligaments.

Physical and psychological stress can be a factor in the development of TMJ disorder. In some cases, jaw pain may result from a more widespread, pain-inducing medical condition, like fibromyalgia. For more information about the causes of TMJ disorder and available treatments, contact our dental office.

Habitual Behavior

Exerting excessive pressure on the TMJ by grinding or clenching is a habitual behavior which may result in TMJ pain. This may occur habitually during the daytime or subconsciously while asleep during the nighttime.

Structural Issues

Structural issues within the face, jaw bone, and the tissues and muscles surrounding the jaw can result in TMJ disorder and the resulting symptoms. Dislocation of the disc between the ball and socket of the joint often due to trauma.


Different forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the temporomandibular joint may result in the development of temporomandibular joint disorder and the resulting symptoms from this condition.


Stress is a highly common and prevalent factor in patients diagnosed with TMJ disorder. Tightening of the facial muscles or holding tension in the jaw muscles due to stress and anxiety can result in the development of TMJ disorders.

Compromised Airways

Individuals may develop temporomandibular joint disorders due to a compromisation of their airways. Re-positioning the lower jaw to open the airway can cause chronic, and sometimes debilitating TMD symptoms, such as facial pain and swelling.

How Is TMD Diagnosed?

In most cases TMJ dysfunction or disorder is diagnosed during a dental appointment with your Gainesville dentist. During your appointment, your healthcare provider will observe the range of motion in your face and jaw when you open and close your mouth; feel your jaw joints as you open and close your mouth; and put pressure on your face and jaw in order to determine which areas cause you discomfort, in order to reach their TMD diagnosis. Additionally, dental X-rays may be taken in order to gain a more in-depth view of the jaw bone, joint, and surrounding tissues, and to determine the extent of the condition and damage. For more information about our TMJ disorder diagnosis process, please contact Van Dyke General and Implant Dentistry.

How Is TMJ Treated?

TMJ treatment options can range from simple, self-care therapies and minimal TMJ treatments to facial injections and open TMJ surgery. Most medical providers and TMD specialists start with conservative, nonsurgical interventions, leaving surgery as the last resort. Examples of nonsurgical TMJ treatment options can include applying moist hot or cold packs to the face and temple area; eating only soft foods; taking over-the-counter TMJ pain relief medication; wear a splint or night guard while you sleep; undergoing corrective dental procedures, such as replacing missing teeth or treatments using dental crowns, dental bridges, or braces, to improve your jaw’s alignment; and to avoid extreme movements involving the jaw.

If conservative treatments prove unsuccessful, then your dentist may suggest a TMJ treatment or series of TMJ therapies such as tanscutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound therapy, trigger-point injections using pain medication or an anesthetic, radiowave therapy, and TMJ surgery. TMJ surgery is considered when all other, less invasive options have been attempted, yet severe pain remains. TMJ surgery is often the most effective and best option for many people suffering from TMJ disorder. The type of TMJ surgery, such as anthrocentesis, anthroscopy, and open-joint surgery, you will receive depends on your symptoms and the complexity of the issue, among other factors.

How Long Does TMJ Last?

Left untreated, TMJ disorder can result in significant health problems including severe inflammation and chronic pain. It may also cause bite problems, tooth erosion, and life-long conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia, depression, and anxiety, among other health conditions. With proper intervention, however, your TMJ disorder can be successfully treated and your symptoms alleviated. The initial step is contacting our dental office to schedule an appointment for an evaluation. It is ideal to treat your condition early on and before your symptoms worsen.

Some TMJ dysfunction symptoms result from factors that you cannot control, like the way in which your jaw aligns with your face and your bite. But, in some cases, you might be able to lower your risk of developing a TMJ disorder by practicing the following tips.

  • Practice proper posture while you are awake and while sleeping
  • Practice doctor-recommended TMJ exercises and TMJ massage techniques
  • Wear a dentist-provided, custom night guard, especially if you clench or grind your teeth
  • Wear your mouthguard when participating in activities like playing contact sports
  • Prioritize and practice stress-reduction strategies and relaxation techniques