Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can affect how you easily you eat, sleep, talk or smile. And if your pain, headaches or sleep problems never seem to get better, TMJ dysfunction can even cause permanent nerve damage, arthritis and depression. Who knew your jaw could cause so much trouble?
You don’t have to live with this. TMJ disorders are manageable. And the experts at Cleveland Clinic are here to figure out what’s causing your pain, stiffness or other symptoms. We’ll find the right treatment — and get you back to living life more comfortably.
Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder Care?
A team of expert healthcare providers from different specialties work together to make sure you get the most personalized care for your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. We build a treatment plan focused on your needs and goals. Meet our team.
We offer a broad range of TMJ disorder treatments, including medication, dental appliances, injections, electrical stimulation, physical therapy and surgery. We may combine treatments to help you get maximum pain relief.
TMJ disorders have many causes, like teeth grinding, stress and acute injuries. We take a close look at your overall physical and mental health to quickly get to the root of your jaw pain and provide the right care for you.
Get quick, convenient online appointments at a time and place that works for you. Virtual visits allow you to meet one-on-one with your healthcare provider on a smartphone, computer or tablet. All you need is an internet connection.
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Diagnosing Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders at Cleveland Clinic
Your temporomandibular joints connect your lower jawbone to your skull. Located in front of your ears on both sides of your face, they help you open your mouth to chew, yawn and speak. When people talk about “having TMJ,” it really means they have temporomandibular joint disorders or dysfunction (the joint’s not working right). This means the muscles and ligaments around their jaw become inflamed or irritated, which causes sudden or lingering pain. These disorders may start with:
- Teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism).
- Dislocation of the discs between your jaws’ ball-and-socket joints.
- Arthritis in the joint.
- Tension and stress.
- An improper bite.
TMJ dysfunction — also called temporal mandibular dysfunction (TMD) — can cause all kinds of symptoms. You may have jaw pain, earaches, tooth pain, dizziness and headaches. Or maybe you have neck and shoulder pain. Often you can feel popping in your jaw or have ringing in your ears (tinnitus).
Other conditions like a broken or dislocated jaw, joint degeneration, malocclusion (bad bite), bony lesions, trigeminal neuralgia or migraine headaches can have the same symptoms. So we want to make sure we’re treating the right problem the right way.
What to expect at your first visit
Because temporomandibular joint disorders can be confused with other conditions, it’s important we quickly find out what’s causing your pain. That’s why your provider will ask you to share your story when you come to your first appointment.
They’ll want to hear about your symptoms — what they are, how long you’ve had them and how they’re affecting your life. Knowing these things can help us make the right diagnosis and put together the most personalized treatment plan for you.
You’ll also have a physical exam. Your provider will ask you to move your mouth and jaw in different directions. They’ll listen for cracking and popping sounds. They might also feel around the area to see how well your jaw moves. You may also have some imaging tests.
Imaging tests are an important part of diagnosing temporomandibular joint disorders. They help us look at your jaw joints, sinuses, teeth, soft tissues and facial bones up close so we can see if there’s any damage. And, if so, how much. These tests could include:
- Panoramic dental X-rays.
- Cone beam computed tomography scans (CBCT) or medical CT.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Meet Our Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder Team
At Cleveland Clinic, we believe in a team-based approach to care. That’s why you’ll meet with different healthcare providers from different specialties, depending on your needs. These experts work together to confirm a diagnosis and craft the most personalized treatment plan for you. Your care team could include:
Providers Who Treat Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
LocationsWe offer treatment for Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders at the following location in Northeast Ohio.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder Treatment at Cleveland Clinic
We’ll start your TMJ disorders treatment with less invasive therapies first — like lifestyle changes and stress management — before turning to surgery. That’s something we recommend only as a last resort.
Making simple behavioral changes can sometimes be enough to relieve TMJ pain. We help you recognize and stop daytime habits that make your jaw pain worse. We might suggest putting moist heat or cold packs on the side of your face and temple area, eating soft foods, yawning and chewing less and avoiding sudden or forceful jaw movements.
Jaw massage and exercise
Tense or imbalanced muscles often cause jaw pain. Physical therapists can press on tight tissue to release tension and provide other therapies to lessen pain. They can also teach you exercises and stretches that relax your jaw.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), like aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®), can relieve TMD pain and swelling. For really bad pain, your provider may prescribe stronger pain relievers or muscle relaxants. Anti-anxiety and antidepressants may also help reduce pain and stress.
Devices and orthodontics
We offer customized mouth guards, splints and other devices to help with bruxism (teeth grinding) or mild bite problems. You provider will let you know if you need orthodontics, like braces, retainers or clear aligners for misaligned teeth (bad bite).
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and radio wave therapy use gentle, low-level electrical currents to relax your jaw muscles. These treatments may also increase endorphins (hormones that naturally block your feeling of pain).
We may recommend mandibular (jaw) trigger point injections for pain relief. Your provider inserts a thin needle into knots of muscle around your jaw, face and neck to break up tight tissue. Botox® injections and dry needling may also help with pain.
During radiofrequency ablation, we use a needle to send a low-level electrical current to nerves causing pain. The current’s heat destroys the nerves, so they can’t send pain signals.
Your healthcare provider may talk with you about using alternative therapies in combination with traditional treatments. These include:
Surgery for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
If you’ve tried other treatment options and you still have severe pain, it may be time to consider surgery. Most jaw orthognathic surgeries aim to remove, reshape or relocate damaged tissue or bones that are out of place. Some are more invasive than others. Your provider may recommend:
Taking the Next Step
Occasional jaw popping might not seem like a big deal. But it shouldn’t be ignored. The painful pop could be the sign of a bigger problem, like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. And that can mess with how you bite, chew, speak and sleep. If you’re having a painful problem with your jaw, we can help. Our expert providers treat lots of people with TMJ dysfunction. They’ll find the right treatment for you — and your jaw pain.
Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s temporomandibular joint disorders experts is easy. We have the care you need.
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