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Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joints.  This is a hinge style joint that allows the mouth to open and close, move side to side, forward and back. Where it connects to the skull near each ear there is a soft disc between a ball and socket style joint. This disc provides a cushion as well as allowing flexibility of the joint (wide opening, rotation).  Any part of this sophisticated system (bone, muscle, cartilage, ligaments, muscles) can have issues that can leave an individual with a TMJ disorder that causes pain (sometimes referred to as TMD).

Some causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • stress and teeth grinding

  • arthritis

  • dislocation

  • injury

  • teeth and jaw alignment


Part of your routine dental exam at Porteous and Burke Family Dentistry includes evaluation of the TMJ and surrounding muscles for tension, tenderness, clicking or popping, or limited movement.  If indicated, you may be referred to a specialist.


Depending on the diagnosis, different treatment options may be available for a TMJ disorder. The following plan is from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research starts with home remedies before more involved treatments.


 They recommend “less is often best” approach:

  • eating soft foods

  • avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails

  • modifying the pain with heat packs

  • practicing relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation or biofeedback.


If necessary for your symptoms, the following may also be recommended:

  • exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles

  • medications prescribed by your dentist; for example, muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications

  • a night guard to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth.

  • Adjusting your occlusion (the way your teeth bite together).​

Sometimes, we also recommend an orthodontic consultation.

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