Understanding TMJ: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments


• TMJ is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint, causing pain, clicking and popping sounds, stiffness, and even lockjaw.

• Risk factors include genetics and family history of TMJ, stress and anxiety, sleep apnea and snoring, and trauma to the jaw.

• Treatment options for TMJ include dental appliances, medications, physical therapy, exercise, and in some cases, surgery.

• It is crucial to follow your doctor’s advice, and being patient when treating TMJ is crucial, as the process can take time.

Have you ever felt a sharp pain in your jaw when you open your mouth wide or yawn? Do you often find yourself clenching your teeth or experiencing headaches? If your answer is yes, you may have a TMJ disorder. TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Here’s what you need to know about TMJ, its causes, and how it can be treated.

A Woman Massaging Her Jaw

What is TMJ?

TMJ is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull. This joint is essential for chewing, swallowing, talking, and yawning. When the joint is not functioning correctly, it can cause various symptoms, including pain, clicking or popping sounds, stiffness, and even lockjaw.

Risk Factors

Various factors can cause TMJ. Here are some of those factors:

Genetics and Family History

One of the most significant risk factors regarding TMJ is genetics or family history. The condition is more prevalent in individuals with a family history of TMJ. Some people may have been born with a jaw structure that is more susceptible to wear and tear or has a genetic predisposition to the disorder. If you have a family history of TMJ, you should be more vigilant of the symptoms, and if you notice any issues, you should seek medical attention.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can cause tension in the jaw and facial muscles, increasing TMJ risk. Those who suffer from stress and anxiety may grind their teeth, clench their jaws or bite their nails, and all these behaviors can cause TMJ. To mitigate the risk of TMJ, patients should engage in stress-management techniques such as mindfulness, therapy, meditation, or yoga.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring

Sleep apnea and snoring can result in TMJ or exacerbate existing TMJ symptoms. Sleep apnea causes breathing to stop and repeatedly start throughout the night, which results in frequent awakenings that can affect the proper functioning of the TMJ.

Similarly, snoring means the airway is obstructed, and the body will try to adjust the jaw position to allow for easier breathing, which may lead to TMJ. Sleep apnea or snoring treatment should be implemented to reduce the chances of developing TMJ.

Trauma to the Jaw

Trauma to the jaw can be acquired through an accident or injury. The condition known as whiplash, a common symptom of car accidents, can cause TMJ. It can result in the displacement of the jaw and cause the joint to become inflamed, leading to TMJ. If you have had a trauma or injury to the jaw, you must seek medical attention immediately to avoid severe complications.

Treatment Options

TMJ is a treatable condition, and there are several treatment options available. Here are some of them:

dental check up

Dental Appliances

Dental appliances can help with the most severe forms of TMJ. A local orthodontist can do this for you. They can diagnose the issue and create a special splint to be worn on the upper or lower teeth. The splint will help relax the muscle tension, relieve pain, and align the jaw correctly.


Various medications can help reduce inflammation and pain in TMJ patients. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as muscle relaxants, are sometimes recommended.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical therapy can help manage TMJ symptoms. Exercises focusing on the jaw muscles can help reduce pain and improve the range of motion in the joint. Additionally, relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindfulness can help reduce the stress or anxiety leading to TMJ.


Surgery may sometimes be recommended if other treatments have failed to provide relief. Surgery is usually a last resort and should only be considered when all other options are exhausted.

No matter which treatment option you choose, following your doctor’s advice and being patient is essential. TMJ can be a slow process, and it may take time for symptoms to subside entirely. If you are suffering from TMJ, the most important thing is not to give up hope and search for solutions. You can find relief from your TMJ symptoms with proper care and treatment.

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