What is TMJ? - Holladay Family Dental
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What is TMJ?

What is TMJ?

Every year, thousands of people suffer from jaw pain. In many cases, this pain is temporary but some suffer for months without finding relief. While there are many different causes of jaw pain, many people suffer from a condition known as TMJ. But what is TMJ? Here are some things you should know about this condition and how to deal with it.

What Is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the joint connecting your jaw to your skull. This joint functions differently than any other joint in the human body, because it slides forward when you open your mouth. When this joint causes pain, it is also referred to as TMD, which stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. Dentists and doctors often use either one of these terms to describe pain that affects the jaw.

What Are The Symptoms Of This Disorder?

The most common symptom reported by jaw pain sufferers is pain in the jaw, specifically the joint. Other symptoms include popping of the jaw, headaches, ear pain, lock jaw, sore jaw muscles and temple pain. Many people have trouble sleeping at night due to pain and some cannot chew certain foods.

What Causes This Disorder?

People who grind or clench their teeth at night, often develop TMD. This is a common reason many with this disorder wake up in the morning with severe headaches. Trauma to the jaw from an accident can also cause symptoms to appear. However, in many cases the cause of TMD comes from the degeneration of the joint over time. Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can cause this to occur.

Who Is At Risk?

Certain people are at an increased risk of developing this condition. If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, you may be more likely to have jaw pain. Suffering an injury such as a bicycle or car accident can also place you at risk.


Treatment of this disorder depends largely upon the severity of symptoms. You may find relief using hot packs and over-the- counter medications. If your symptoms are causing intense pain or keeping you awake at night, it may be time to see a dentist who specializes in this type of pain. After an examination, your dentist may use appliances that fit in your mouth to reduce your symptoms.If your symptoms are being caused by misalignment of your teeth, orthodontics may be the answer. Surgery is also an option but is typically used in cases where no other treatments relieve pain.

If you are experiencing jaw pain or lock jaw, it may be time to see a dentist for a consultation and examination. While this condition is painful, there are a variety of treatments that can help reduce pain and let you return to a normal life.