Reviewed by Dr. Jason Fluckiger, DMD

Are you waking up with a sore jaw, hearing a clicking sound when you chew, or feeling pain in your face and neck? You might be experiencing symptoms of a TMJ disorder.

In this four-part blog series, we will discuss everything you need to know about TMJ disorders, from understanding the condition and its symptoms, to the treatment options available.

So let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. Think of it as a hinge that connects your jaw to the rest of your skull. It lets you talk, chew, and yawn. When everything works smoothly, you hardly notice it. But when it doesn’t, ouch!

What is TMD?

TMD, temporomandibular disorder, is a condition that affects the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. It can cause pain and discomfort in your jaw, face, neck, and even your ears. Common symptoms include:

  • Jaw pain or stiffness
  • Clicking or popping sound when opening or closing your mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or a change in the way your teeth fit together
  • Frequent headaches 
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Facial pain
  • Ear pain, ringing, or pressure
  • Dizziness

What Causes TMD?

The exact cause of TMJ disorders is not always known, but several factors can contribute to its development. These may include:

  • Jaw injuries such as whiplash or a blow to the face
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) 
  • Jaw clenching
  • Arthritis in the jaw joint
  • Misalignment of the teeth or jaw
  • Stress and tension in the facial muscles
  • Excessive chewing

Treatment Options For TMD

If you are experiencing symptoms of a TMJ disorder, seek professional treatment. Talk to your dentist about conservative treatment options such as:

  • Mouth guards or occlusal guards (night guard) to protect your teeth and relieve pressure on the jaw joint
  • Physical therapy exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles in your jaw
  • Lifestyle adjustments

In more severe cases, surgical treatment may be recommended. TMJ arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive procedure where a small camera is inserted into the joint to assess and treat any issues. This surgical option is often considered when conservative measures are not successfully treating the disorder. 

Day-to-Day TMJ Management

If you are having a TMJ flare up, there are some things you can do at home to manage the pain:

  • Eat soft foods
  • Apply moist heat or ice to the affected area
  • Avoid chewing gum and hard, chewy foods
  • Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress and tension in facial muscles

TMJ Pain Release Exercises

Exercises tailored specifically for the TMJ can be particularly effective in alleviating symptoms. Here are three detailed exercises you can try:

1. Jaw Relaxation Exercise

The goal of this exercise is to reduce tension in the jaw muscles. Start by placing the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your upper front teeth. Slowly open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can while keeping your tongue in place. Hold this position for a few seconds, then gradually close your mouth. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times daily to help relax your jaw.

2. Goldfish Exercises (Partial Opening)

This exercise helps in strengthening the muscles that control your jaw movement. Place one finger on your TMJ and another finger on your chin. Gently lower your lower jaw halfway and then close it again. Make sure to perform this exercise with a gentle motion, and avoid stressing your jaw further. Do this exercise 6-10 times in a row, aiming for one to two sets per day.

3. Chin Tucks

Chin tucks can help improve your jaw and neck posture, reducing strain on your TMJ. Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Slowly draw your chin straight back, creating a “double chin,” without tilting your head up or down. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds before releasing and returning to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times daily to strengthen the muscles in your neck and jaw.

By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you can help manage TMJ symptoms and promote better jaw health. Always remember to proceed gently and consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen.

Get Relief From TMD Pain

Living with a TMJ disorder can be frustrating and painful. But with proper treatment, management, and self-care, you can find relief and improve your quality of life.

If conservative measures are not providing relief, call or text (480) 830-5866 to book an appointment for a TMJ consultation at AZ Max Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons. Our skilled team is experienced in addressing TMJ disorders and helping patients find relief from their symptoms.

If you are searching for an ‘oral surgeon near me’ or an ‘oral and maxillofacial surgeon near me’, we can help. Call AZ Max Oral Surgery today!

Stay tuned for our second blog in this series, The Benefits of TMJ Arthroscopy.

FAQs About TMJ Disorder

What are some things that make TMJ worse?

Certain habits and behaviors can worsen TMJ symptoms, such as stress, teeth grinding or clenching, poor posture, and fingernail/pen/gum chewing. Injuries to the jaw or face can also make TMJ disorder worse.

Does TMJ cause ear pain?

Yes, TMJ disorders can cause referred pain to the ears. This can manifest as earaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or pressure in the ears.

Can a chiropractor help with TMJ?

Chiropractic care can be helpful in managing TMJ disorders by addressing any spinal imbalances that may contribute to jaw tension and pain. However, it is essential to consult with your dentist or doctor before seeking chiropractic treatment for TMJ.

Can TMJ cause dizziness?

Some people with TMJ disorders may experience dizziness or vertigo because of the proximity of the jaw joint to the inner ear. However, there can be other underlying causes for dizziness, so it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.