Do I Have TMJ?

Do I Have TMJ?


Disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) affect more than 10 million people in the U.S. Although signs and symptoms of TMJ may vary from person to person, most people will experience one of the primary symptoms including pain at the jaw joint, clicking or popping when opening the mouth or chewing, stiffness in the jaw, or pain that spreads into the face or neck. If you think you have TMJ, the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with a dentist who specializes in the nonsurgical treatment of TMJ.

What Causes TMJ?

Women are twice as likely to be affected by TMJ than men. TMJ symptoms may flare up in conjunction with other medical conditions such as back pain, IBS, headaches, and fibromyalgia.  Most people are first diagnosed with TMJ disorders between the ages of 20-40.

Unfortunately, although there are several primary causes of TMJ disorders, in most cases the exact cause isn’t known. Known causes of TMJ include:

  • Congenital joint disorder
  • Arthritis
  • Injury (trauma) to the joint

However, specific activities and habits may all contribute to the degeneration of the disc or the joint, including bruxism (teeth grinding), misalignment of the teeth or bite, muscle spasms, rheumatic illnesses, and other less common conditions such as connective tissue disease.

The role that stress plays in TMJ cannot be underscored. Although stressors won’t directly cause pain in the jaw joint, they do increase the likelihood of inflammation, or teeth grinding or clenching, all of which can trigger TMJ symptoms.

How Can I Treat TMJ?

If you suddenly develop pain in the jaw joint, you’ll be glad to know that temporary flare-ups are common. The symptoms may disappear on their own within days or weeks.  At home, you may try icing the jaw, taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as Advil, or switching to soft foods temporarily.

If you’re currently under more stress than normal, you may also wish to engage in relaxation exercises, such as mindful meditation, guided breathing, yoga, tai chi, or other intentional stretching exercises.

If the pain does not go away with at-home care, you’ll need to schedule a dental appointment with a dentist experienced in treating TMJ.

Nonsurgical treatments for TMJ may include custom night guards or bite guards (oral appliances) which prevent teeth grinding and clenching, BOTOX injections to relax the muscles, specialized jaw exercises, and prescription strength anti-inflammatories.

TMJ disorders due to traumatic injury or congenital defect may require surgery to treat.

Frequently Asked Questions about TMJ

Is TMJ treatment covered by Insurance?

It’s best to check with your dental and medical coverage to learn if your specific plans cover treatment for TMJ disorders. If your insurance does not cover TMJ treatment, you may opt to finance treatment with CareCredit, a third-party financing company offering no interest and low-interest monthly payments.

Can TMJ lead to complications?

Left untreated, TMJ can lead to chronic pain and difficulty chewing. If your TMJ pain is caused by teeth grinding, you may develop oral health conditions including cracked teeth, infections, and gum disease.

Schedule an Appointment for Jaw Joint Pain in Aliso Viejo

If you’ve developed pain, clicking, popping, or a locking sensation in the jaw, schedule an appointment at Aliso Smiles by calling 949-916-7800. If you prefer, you may message us to request an appointment and we will follow up with you shortly.