Temperomandibular Joint Pain

Where is the Temperomandibular Joint?

The Temperomandibular joint or TMJ connects the jaw to the skull.  The term TMJ is often used as a generic term to describe the dysfunctions of the joint and jaw muscles (the correct term is Temperomandibular dysfunction).  The TMJ is seen by some to be one of the most important joints in the human body because of its profound influence.  It is also one of the most complex joints in the body.

What causes Temperomandibular Dysfunction (TMD)

Temperomandibular Dysfunction (TMD) is the discomfort or pain associated with the Temperomandibular joint and the muscles that move the lower jaw.  TMD occurs for various reasons such as trauma to the face, jaw or mouth area.  TMD can also be triggered by stress or an event that an individual fails to adapt to, for example, the strain of dental surgery, changes to the bite or the loss of teeth.

How do I know if I have TMD?

Many symptoms have been described but the most common are pain and tenderness in the area of the TMJ or in the face, head and neck.  Clicks, grating, popping and gravelly noises in the joints are also common as is an awareness of clenching or grinding.  The pain can come from tension in the muscles around the area, or from within the joints.  The symptoms of TMD can be very debilitating and it is wise to seek professional help as soon as it is suspected.

Can be TMD be treated?

TMD is treated in a number of ways depending on the severity and the length of time since the symptoms have started.

  • Explanation and reassurance:
    Most TMD is benign and will improve with non – invasive and simple treatment.  First line treatments include: anti inflammatories and other painkillers as well as muscle relaxants.  Jaw exercises can also be used.
  • Patient Education and self-care:
    This includes limiting excessive jaw function and movement by eating soft foods, avoiding wide yawning, singing and chewing gum, massaging affected muscles and applying heat, relaxation techniques, and identifying and reducing life stresses!
  • Occlusal Splints:
    These are also known as “bite guards” or “night guards” and their purpose is to relieve muscle tension and reduce compression of inflamed joints.  They are also used to confirm the diagnosis of TMD and to decide the best means of further treatment, if required.
  • Physiotherapy, Osteopathy, and TMJ surgery
    Occlusal splints can be successfully combined with investigation and treatment by other related medical fields in a multi – disciplinary approach


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