TMJ dysfunction (TMD) causes pain and tenderness in your jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. Causes include teeth grinding, jaw injuries, arthritis and everyday wear and tear. TMJ treatment varies from person to person and may include medication, physical therapy, custom mouth guards and jaw surgery.
TMJ dysfunctions are conditions affecting your jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. These conditions can cause several issues, including jaw pain, headaches and difficulty opening and closing your mouth.
You might hear people call these conditions TMJ. But “TMJ” refers to your actual jaw joint, while “TMD” stands for temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Another name is temporomandibular joint disorder.
You have two TMJs (temporomandibular joints) — one on each side of your face, just in front of your ears. Your TMJs connect your lower jawbone to your skull and help with movements like chewing and speaking.
Between 5% and 12% of the general adult population have some form of TMJ disorder. The condition is twice as common in women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) than in men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB). People between the ages of 20 and 40 are most likely to develop TMD.
Healthcare providers classify TMDs into three categories:
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TMJ symptoms vary widely and may include:
There’s no singular cause of TMD. Rather, it can be a result of many different factors or a combination of factors.
TMJ causes may include:
You can’t always control factors that cause TMJ dysfunction. But certain habits can make TMD worse, including:
TMJ dysfunction can contribute to a range of complications, including chronic pain, limited chewing function and bruxism-related wear and tear.
Some factors can overlap, and it may be difficult to identify the exact cause. In some cases, it can take a while to find a treatment that works well for you.
Healthcare providers can diagnose TMJ disorder during a dental checkup or physical examination. During this visit, they’ll:
They may also take imaging tests to get a closer look at your jaw joints and the structures around them. These imaging tests may include:
The TMJ treatment that’s right for you depends on several factors, including the underlying cause and the severity of your pain. Providers usually try noninvasive options first, like medications or nonsurgical treatments. If your symptoms don’t improve, you might need jaw surgery.
There are several types of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications that can ease TMJ symptoms, including:
Some medications, including antidepressants, can actually cause bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching). Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about the risks vs. benefits of certain medications.
Nonsurgical treatment options include:
If medications and nonsurgical therapies don’t work, you might need surgery. Types of TMJ surgery include:
TMJ specialists include:
You can’t always prevent TMD because some risk factors are unavoidable. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk:
TMJ dysfunction affects everyone differently. For some, it’s a temporary issue that goes away in a week or two. For others, it’s a chronic condition that negatively impacts quality of life.
If you have frequent jaw pain, facial pain, headaches or other TMJ symptoms, tell a healthcare provider. They can help you find an effective treatment.
It depends. In some cases, TMD goes away on its own in one to two weeks. But in severe instances, it can last several months or even years. TMJ disorder can be short term (acute) or long term (chronic).
Yes, it’s possible to cure TMJ dysfunction with appropriate treatment and management.
If you have persistent TMJ pain, popping jaws or other symptoms, schedule a visit with a healthcare provider. They can help you find out why your jaws are aching and determine what kind of treatment you need.
If you have TMJ dysfunction, here are some questions you might want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
TMJ dysfunction affects everyone differently. It can result in temporary discomfort or chronic jaw pain that lasts for months or even years. While the condition can be difficult to diagnose, there are treatments that can help. If you have jaw pain, headaches or other symptoms that keep you from enjoying life, talk to your healthcare provider. They can find the cause and recommend appropriate treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/15/2023.
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