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Living With TMJ

by Williams, Daily & Frazier on Apr 4, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders cause jaw pain and other problems for more than 10 million people in the United States. TMJ disorders can make it hard to chew, talk, or simply enjoy life; the pain can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Fortunately, TMJ treatments can make it easier to live with a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

About TMJ and Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

Located near your ears on each side of your jaw, the TMJ connects your jawbone to your skull. The TMJ works like a sliding hinge, a configuration that allows you to move your lower jaw up and down, side to side, and forward and backwards. This unique joint allows you to chew, talk, yawn, and more.

The TMJ is a complex joint. The parts of the bones that interact with one another are covered in cartilage, which is a flexible connective tissue that helps joints move freely. A small shock-absorbing disk prevents friction between the bones of the joint and guides the bones as they move.

TMJ disorders can develop when problems occur with the bones, cartilage or disc. TMDs can occur if the disc wears down or moves out of place, for example. Arthritis can damage the joint’s cartilage, and a blow to the jaw can damage the entire temporomandibular joint.

A number of factors can contribute to the development of TMJ disorders. Genetics may be a factor, for example, as temporomandibular joint disorders may run in families. Suffering a jaw injury can increase the risk for TMJ disorders. Arthritis can damage the joint’s cartilage. Some people who clench or grind their teeth (bruxism) develop TMJ problems, although many people with bruxism never develop a TMJ disorder. Missing teeth, misalignment of teeth or jaw, stress or gum chewing may contribute to the development of TMJ disorders.

While doctors know what factors can increase a patient’s risk for developing a TMJ disorder, it can be difficult to determine the exact reason an individual develops a TMJ disorder.

TMJ disorders typically affect people who are between 20 and 40 years old, and TMD is more common in females than it is in males.

TMJ disorders are common, affecting 15 percent or more of the population. In fact, TMD is the second most common orofacial pain – only dental pain is more common.

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders

TMJ disorders cause a variety of signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Jaw pain, clicking and popping
  • Ear pain
  • Headaches
  • Popping sounds in ears
  • Pain in the temple area
  • Stiff or sore jaw muscles
  • Locking of the jaw joint

Tips for Living with TMJ

While the symptoms of TMJ disorders can interfere with everyday life, you can take steps to manage your symptoms.

Perform at-home strengthening exercises

Strengthening the muscles that move the temporomandibular joint can help reduce TMJ pain. Strengthening exercises involve opening and closing your mouth while using your fingers or thumb to place some resistance against your chin.

Resisted opening exercise

With your mouth closed, place one thumb under your chin, and gently push your chin downward against your thumb. As you push your chin down on your thumb, slowly open your mouth; keep your mouth open for a few seconds before slowly closing it.

Resisted closing exercise

Place your thumb under your chin with your mouth open; place the index finger from the same hand on the ridge between your chin and lower lip. Gently push down to create resistance as you close your mouth.


Professional treatment can make living with TMJ easier. Pain medication can alleviate pain, but should not be used on a long-term basis. A dental professional can provide occlusal splints, which are specially designed mouthguards for people who grind their teeth or have a history of TMJ disorders. Psychosocial interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy can teach patients ways to reduce pain, ease the emotional distress associated with chronic pain, and decrease the negative effects TMJ pain has on their lives. Most professionals agree that it is best to avoid irreversible treatments for TMD.

Williams, Daily & Frazier Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist in Raleigh, NC with a dedicated team of dentists, assistants, hygienists and administrators who are enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes.
Contact Williams, Daily & Frazier at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.