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01 Mar 2014
It's a mouthful to say temporomandibular joint. No wonder it's commonly referred to as TMJ. The TMJ is the hinge joint that connects your lower jawbone (manible) with the temporal bone of our skull. Temporomandibular disorders cause pain in this joint or in the muscles that surround it.

The most common sign of a temporomandible disorder is pain or a dull ache in your jaw muscles or in front of your ear. The pain can range from minor to severe and may radiate to your face, neck or shoulders, or contribute to headaches. You may also hear clicking, popping or grating sounds when you open and close your mouth or chew. And the joint can lock or catch, making it difficult to open and close your mouth.

You may develop a temporomandibular disorder as a result of arthritis, dislocation of your jaw or a fracture. Most commonly, however, these disorders begin without any obvious cause. Habits such as clenching your teeth and chewing gum may aggravate the problem.

Temporomandibular disorders affect about 7 million people in the United States. If you're one of them, here's how Dr. Anderson can treat your condition and what you can do to help yourself feel better.

Things to consider

Bite Check
To determine if you have a temporomandibular disorder, Dr. Anderson, will likely ask about your symptoms, how long you've had them, and whether you've had any injuries to your jaw. Dr. Anderson may listen for jaw sounds when you open and close your mouth, look at your ability to move your jaw, and perform and oral examination or our mouth. An X-ray also may be done.

Conservative Remedies First
If Dr. Anderson determines you have a temporomandibular disorder, these conservative treatments may be suggested.
  • Avoid sticky, chewy or hard foods, such as chewing gum, caramels or hard candies.
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements, such as opening your mouth wide when you yawn.
  • Apply ice or moist heat to your jaw as needed for pain relief.
  • Use an over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
  • Be aware of and avoid habits such as clenching or grinding your teeth.
Joint Action
Along with self-care optins, Dr. Anderson may also suggest:
  • Splints. Because splints may change your bite, Dr. Anderson should monitor their use. Although often referred to as night guards, splints can be worn during the day as well.
  • Medications. Pain control medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxen), may help.
  • Physical therapy. This may include applying ice or moist heat, and using massage to reduce discomfort.