Symptoms and Treatments for TMJ

Most of the joints in our body are put to good use each day, including our temporomandibular joints, or TMJ for short. The TMJ is found on either side of the head and connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. It’s responsible for us being able to open our mouths to talk, eat and yawn. If the joint becomes damaged or injured, it can make using it difficult or even possible, and this can have a considerable impact on our day to day lives. Some people even experience developmental problems with the joint, causing them to experience painful and debilitating issues.


Interestingly, as many as 30% of us will experience TMJ disorder at some stage during our lives. For many of us, it will resolve itself with only minor inconvenience. However, several people will suffer from chronic pain and other symptoms. Fortunately, there are treatments that can help.

Symptoms of TMJ

So, how do you know if you are suffering from TMJ disorder? Although the symptoms of TMJ disorder can sometimes be mild and easily overlooked, there are still signs that can indicate that you are experiencing issues with your TMJ and would benefit from an appointment with your dentist.  


Some of the most common symptoms that are indicative of TMJ disorder include:

  • Clicking, popping and/or grinding noises when you chew, talk, or open/close your mouth.

  • Jaw pain. This can be sudden and acute, or you may experience persistent, chronic pain.

  • Pain or problems opening and closing your mouth.

  • Persistent headaches, migraines and/or blurred vision.

  • Ear and sound-related abnormalities, such as pain, tinnitus, or the sensation like there is something lodged inside the ear.

  • Swelling of the jaw/face.

  • Pain in front of the ear, radiating outwards to the temple, cheek, and neck. 

  • Pain that extends into the neck, shoulders, and upper back.

Treatment for TMJ disorder

If you have been diagnosed with TMJ disorder, your dentist will be able to make several recommendations which could help to alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life.


At home care for TMJ disorder

There are some simple steps that you can take at home that can reduce the pain and other effects that you may be experiencing.


  • Choose soft foods. Hard food requires you to work the jaw more to chew it, and this can make your TMJ pain worse.

  • Take over the counter pain medications, such as anti-inflammatories, which should help to get your discomfort under control.

  • Try not to clench your teeth and jaw. People sometimes do this when they are stressed, but you should actively try to keep your teeth apart unless you are eating.

  • Use heat/cold packs, holding them to your jaw until the ache subsides. Some people find that heat works better, while others prefer cold compresses. Find the solution that works best for you.

  • Avoid yawning too widely. If you feel the need to yawn, try and stifle it as much as possible. Yawning widely and stretching your mouth open could cause discomfort and cause you to experience lockjaw.


TMJ exercises

Your dentist may recommend that you try some special exercises which are designed to strengthen the jaw muscles and increase the mobility of the joint. These exercises also reduce clicking and stiffness and promote healing. Your dentist will show you these exercises, talking you through them so that you are confident to complete them at home as directed.


Dental splints

Also known as a bite guard, dental splints are dental appliances placed inside the mouth with the aim of keeping the teeth in alignment and preventing grinding. These are usually custom designed for each individual patient and must be provided and fitted by a trained and experienced professional.


Prescription medication

In some cases, dentist may offer patients with TMJ disorder prescription medications. There are several different types which may be recommended including:

  • Muscle relaxants

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

  • Steroid injections

  • Pain medications

Your dentist will explain which they believe to be the best choice for you and why.



If your TMJ disorder is very severe, you may need surgery to correct the joint so that it is functioning properly. Some patients may even need a total joint replacement, which requires patients to undergo a significant recovery period.


If you would like more information about TMJ disorder, or to schedule an appointment at Above & Beyond Dental, please call (817) 571-1667 to speak to our expert team.