TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint. Everyone has two of these joints and they are located on each side of your jaw, connecting the jawbone to the skull. When you have pain in these joints, we say that you have a temporomandibular disorder or TMD. This can be a painful condition which affects the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. The jaw is a very intricate system of joints, teeth, and muscles; if any one of these is out of balance, it can create pain and long-term irreparable problems.

Do you have jaw pain and/or popping and clicking in the joints of your jaw? Do you have worn, cracked teeth, or are the edges of your teeth uneven? These problems often stem from the misalignment or imbalance of the bite and are often related to elevated stress levels. Our team will provide a free assessment and a personalized consultation to discuss your possible solutions to prevent more damage.

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What causes TMJ/TMD

Several things can cause TMD. An injury or dislocation of the jaw, postpartum TMJ pain, or even arthritis are factors in TMD. One of the most common causes, however, is grinding or clenching the teeth from stress, which causes you to tighten facial and jaw muscles, sometimes when awake and oftentimes while sleeping. Occasionally, nighttime grinding, biting, or tense muscles can be related to joint shape and development from overstressing the joints. Athletes and bodybuilders tend to have issues from clenching and grinding from the stress of athletic performance.

Another common cause of TMD is when the teeth or the bite are misaligned and not fitting well. Misaligned teeth can add more stress and strain to delicate muscles or joints. An imbalance in the joint system can lead to functional overload of the TMJ, ultimately causing degeneration of the joint tissues and painful symptoms, such as muscle tightness, sharp jaw pain, severe headaches, and limited function or opening.


Symptoms of TMD are varied based on the cause, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Clicking or popping in the jaw
  • A feeling that your bite is off
  • Waking up with a headache
  • Muscle pain from everyday chewing
  • Pain or ringing in the ear
  • Jaw locking shut or open

Sometimes the patient doesn’t have any awareness, but as dentists, we can see problems with the teeth and the gums from clenching or grinding.

The importance of proper treatment

TMJ/TMD can lead to many serious jaw problems if not addressed, such as a locked jaw, which sometimes requires emergency hospitalization. Chronic TMD can also break down the cartilage in the jaw over time, leading to a jaw dislocation or arthritis. TMD can even cause tinnitus, a ringing in the ears from nerve irritation. If it is related specifically to the bite or alignment, you may experience broken teeth, gum recession, loose teeth, bone loss, fractured teeth, or broken fillings or crowns. The bone of the jaw joint may even change shape due to the overloaded forces.

Many options to Treat TMD

At South Metro Dentistry, we let the symptoms dictate treatment. We often suggest conservative measures for first-line therapy – anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and swelling, along with heat to relax the muscles and cold packs to relieve pain and swelling.

If we need to further assess TMD to determine the root cause, we take a close look at the alignment of the jaw along with the teeth and the bite. We offer the latest advancements in X-ray imaging, utilizing this information to model your bite and simulate changes before treating your condition. We utilize an intricate hinge axis technique to determine the precise location of the TMJ hinge. Most dentists don’t utilize this level of accuracy, but we believe it is critical in managing joint problems and dental reconstructions.

If TMD is caused by clenching or grinding, we may recommend a therapeutic orthotic to be worn at night so that your upper and lower teeth do not grind together while you are sleeping.

When teeth wear down from TMD they tend to want to move and shift. Sometimes we may recommend orthodontic treatment to get the teeth to re-align.

Sometimes we recommend bite therapy to help calm down the muscles and relieve pain prior to any dental work to restore the teeth or the bite to their proper function. Bite therapy includes a custom-made appliance that helps balance your bite, relieve your facial muscles, and stabilize the TMJ.

While many people are interested in a band-aid or temporary fix to their jaw pain, it’s important to get to the true cause of the pain. Dentists are specially qualified to treat and restore the mouth to give you back a pain-free lifestyle. If you have experienced jaw pain for more than a few days or nagging pain that comes and goes, it’s time to make an appointment to address it.

We’ll help you get to the bottom of your jaw pain. Call for a free consult to help get relief from your pain.


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