Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) affect many people in the U.S. with the common symptom of this disorder including pain on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint connects the temporal bones of your skull to your jaw. Scientists and dentists have not understood the causes of TMD despite the condition being common. However, dentists believe that the condition normally arises from injuries on the jaw, joints, or the muscles surrounding the head or the neck. You do not have to endure the uncomfortable symptoms of TMD because we at Northridge Dentist provide excellent treatment.

Causes of TMD

In most cases, temporomandibular disorders occur due to injuries on the jaw, muscles, or joints of your head and neck. For instance, the disorder might develop if you get a whiplash or a blow on your jaw. Other common causes of temporomandibular disorder include:

  • Clenching or grinding your teeth. This puts intense pressure on your jawbones

  • Movement of the disc or the soft cushion between the ball and the socket of the temporomandibular joint

  • TMD could develop if you have arthritis in the temporomandibular joint

  • Stress is a leading cause of TMD. Stress could make you tighten your jaw muscles or clench your teeth leading to temporomandibular disorder.

Symptoms of TMD

The typical symptom of TMD is severe discomfort and pain in the jaw area or the neck. The pain could be temporary and fade off after a few days. However, in some cases, the pain could last for years if not treated. Temporomandibular disorder is common in women that means and often occurs in people between 20 and 40 years. How can you tell that you are suffering from TMD?

  • Tenderness or pain in the face or jaw joint, neck, and shoulders - You could also experience pain around the ears while chewing, speaking, opening your mouth.

  • Problems while opening the mouth wide.

  • Locking jaws - Your jaws could lock or get stuck in the closed or open mouth position

  • Popping, grating, or clicking sounds in your jaw joint whenever you are opening or closing your mouth. The sound from the jaw joint could also occur when you are chewing food.

  • You could experience a feeling of tiredness, especially on your face.

  • You might have an uncomfortable bite or have trouble while chewing food. You will often feel as if your lower and upper teeth are not fitting well together.

  • It is common to develop swelling on the side of your face.

Other likely signs that you might notice include dizziness, neck aches, headaches, upper shoulder pain, earaches, hearing problems, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Pain During Dental Care

It might be painful to practice basic oral hygiene if you are suffering from TMJ. You may find it uncomfortable or painful while flossing, brushing, or getting routine dental cleanings. You can follow certain tips to ensure that you are still able to clean your teeth and maintain good oral health even with the complications of TMD:

  • Use a sonic toothbrush or a soft-bristle toothbrush while cleaning your teeth

  • If you are unable to open your mouth due to the pain, you could use a water flosser or a rubber tip stimulator while cleaning your teeth

  • Incorporate an antiseptic mouth rinse into your routine cleaning procedure. The mouth rinse will wipe off unhealthy bacteria from your mouth

  • If you constantly experience pain during dental care, consider taking some pain medication

  • Request your dentist to recommend other ways of removing plaque from the mouth other than flossing. For instance, your dentist might recommend alternative teeth cleaning procedures like wiping your teeth with the cotton gauze.

Diagnosis of TMD

TMD might have similar symptoms with other conditions like sinus problems, tooth decay, gum disease, or arthritis. Therefore, when you visit a dentist, the dentist has to identify the specific issue. The dentist will conduct a thorough physical examination. He/she might also inquire about your medical history.

Your dentist could also inspect your jaws and identify areas of pain and tenderness. As you move your jaws, the dentist will listen to know whether your jaw produces pops, clicks, or grating sounds. The dentist will also confirm that your jaw does not lock when you open your mouth and that it works the way it should work. Your dentist might also check your bite and check if you have issues with your face muscles.

For your dentist to view your temporomandibular joints and your jaws, he/she could take x-rays of your facial area. Through an x-ray, your dentist will be able to examine your jaws and your teeth to rule out other dental problems before diagnosing you with TMD.

If your doctor considers it necessary, he/she might subject you to other tests like MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computer tomography. An MRI will help to reveal whether the disc in your temporomandibular joint in the right position. Through a CT, your dentist will be able to observe the bony details of your temporomandibular joint.

For further treatment and care, your doctor might refer you to a maxillofacial and oral surgeon. This surgeon specializes in conducting surgery around the jaw area, mouth, and entire face. You might also require orthodontist services to ensure that your joints, muscles, and teeth are working, as they should.

Treatment for TMD

Sometimes, you might not require treatment for temporomandibular disorders. The symptoms may fade on their own. Your dentist might also recommend out-of-hospital treatment for the disorder. Some of the remedies for TMD include:

Over the Counter Medication

Your doctor might recommend certain anti-inflammatory drugs, which do not contain steroids. These drugs will help to reduce swelling and muscle pain that might result from TMD.

Cold or Heat Packs

Your dentist might advise you to place an ice pack on the affected area for several minutes. After the cold compress, you could hold a warm cloth or towel on your face for several minutes. While doing the cold and the warm compresses, you should also stretch your jaw several times. Ensure that you repeat this routine daily to get the best results.

Avoiding Hard Crunchy Foods

After a TMD diagnosis, your dentist might advise you to avoid hard, crunchy foods instead of adding some soft foods. You could add food items like yogurt, mashed potatoes, eggs, cheese, fish, and beans. These foods require less chewing and not likely to strain your jaws as you eat. You should avoid hard or crunchy foods like raw carrots and pretzels. Your dentist might also advise you against chewy foods like taffy and caramel. During recovery, you should ensure that you cut your food into small pieces to make it easy to bite and chew. Cutting foods into small pieces will help you avoid thick and large bites that might require you to open your mouth wide.

Limiting Your Jaw Movements

You should avoid extreme jaw movements while recovering from temporomandibular disorder. Ensure that you keep chewing and yawning into a minimum. You should also avoid activities that require you to open your mouth wide. These activities include singing and yelling.

Avoid Resting Your Chin on Your Hand

Most people tend to rest their chin in their hands. However, this might not be a good posture if you're suffering from a temporomandibular disorder. It is also advisable to ensure that you do not hold your phones between your ears and shoulders. You have to maintain the best posture to ensure that you minimize facial and neck pain.

Avoid Clenching Your Teeth

You should avoid clenching your teeth while recovering from temporomandibular disorder. Your dentist might advise you to ensure that you keep your teeth slightly apart at all times. This will ensure that you do not exert too much pressure on your jaws. To help control teeth grinding or clenching during the day, you could try to place your tongue between your teeth. This could help you overcome the habit of clenching your teeth, which is a leading cause of the temporomandibular disorder.

Learn to Relax Your Jaws

Learning to relax your jaws will speed up the recovery process for temporomandibular disorders. You should master several relaxation techniques to ensure that you do not strain your jaw muscles. Depending on the extent of the disorder, your dentist might recommend massage or physical therapy. You might also consider biofeedback or stress reduction therapy to help foster the healing process.

Other Conventional Treatment Methods

Other conventional treatment methods that could help you recover from the temporomandibular disorder include:

Higher Doses of Medication

Besides pain and anti-inflammatory medications, your dentist might recommend higher doses of medications like NSAIDS to help you deal with temporomandibular disorders. The drugs will help to reduce inflammation and pain; the drugs will also help to relax your muscles. Sometimes, TMD might occur due to stress; you are more likely to grind your teeth while stressed. Your dentist might refer you to a mental health expert who might recommend anti-anxiety medications. Anti-anxiety medications will help to relieve stress, and this will enhance the recovery process. Low doses of anti-anxiety medications might also come in handy in reducing pain.

You should not buy muscle relaxants, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety drugs without a valid prescription. It is important to note that these medications are only available on prescription.

Night Guard or Splint

Your dentist might recommend a night guard or a splint as a remedy for TMD. The mouthpieces will fit perfectly over your lower and upper teeth to ensure that the teeth do not touch. The mouthpieces will reduce the effects of grinding, clenching your teeth, and improving your bite by maintaining your teeth in the right position. You can wear a splint at all times, even while going about your daily duties. You wear a night before going to bed to ensure that you do not grind or clench your teeth. Your dentist will recommend either a splint or a night guard depending on your condition and the desired results.

Dental work might come in handy to correct your bite and to balance your teeth's surfaces. Therefore, your dentist might recommend braces, bridges, or dental crowns.

Advanced Treatments for TMD

If the at-home remedies for TMD or medications do not work, your doctor might recommend advanced treatment options. Some of the advanced treatment methods for temporomandibular disorders include:


TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a therapy that entails using mild electrical currents to relax your jaws. The currents offer pain relief by helping to relax your facial and jaw muscles. You can undergo this procedure at a dental office or have the dentist perform it at the comfort of your home.


This treatment procedure entails applying deep heat to the temporomandibular joint to improve mobility and relieve soreness.

Your dentist might also recommend trigger point injections as a treatment for temporomandibular disorders. This treatment procedure entails injecting anesthesia into certain trigger points on the facial muscles to relieve the pain and discomfort of TMD.

Radio wave treatment/therapy is also an advanced treatment method for temporomandibular disorder. It involves stimulating the temporomandibular joints to increase the blood flow. An increase in blood flow into the affected areas helps to reduce pain.

Your dentist might also recommend low-level or mild laser therapy. This therapy comes in handy in lowering pain and inflammation. It also allows a patient to move the neck freely and to open the mouth wider with relative ease.

TMJ Exercises

In some instances, temporomandibular disorders will go away without treatment. However, if the symptoms persist even after taking pain medications and undergoing other forms of treatment, you might consider TMJ exercises. However, you should never engage in TMJ exercises when you are in extreme pain. It is advisable to wait until the pain subsides before you adopt a TMJ exercise regimen.

When getting started with TMJ exercises, ensure that you start slow. It is normal to experience pain and discomfort when you first get started with the exercises. However, the pain is minimal and will gradually improve, if the pain during TMJ exercises is too much, you should inform your dentist about it. Ensure that you are relaxed when engaging in TMJ exercises; you might not benefit from the exercises if you do them when your muscles are tense.

It is not clear exactly how TMJ exercises help to relieve pain from the joints. However, the exercises help to strengthen the jaw muscles. Exercises also help to relax and stretch the jaw muscles. You can increase jaw mobility and reduce jaw clicking through TMJ exercises. These combined impacts of TMJ exercises help to relieve the pain caused by TMD.

TMJ exercises are more effective in enhancing proper mouth opening than using a mouthguard. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends several TMJ exercises. Some of the most effective TMJ exercises include:

  • Relaxed jaw exercises — these exercises entail gently resting the tongue on the roof of your mouth on the area behind your upper front teeth. Ensure that as you relax your jaw muscles, you allow your teeth to come apart.

  • Goldfish exercises while partially opening your mouth — While performing this exercise, you will start by placing the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Place one finger on the form part of your ear, close to where the TMJ joint lies. Place your pointer or middle finger on the chin as you drop your lower jaw halfway and close it. As you perform this exercise, you are likely to experience mild resistance; however, you should not experience pain. Ensure that you do this exercise several times a day to get the best results.

  • Goldfish exercise with the mouth fully open — While performing this exercise, you have to start with placing the tongue on the roof of your mouth. You should place one finger on your chin and the other finger on your TMJ. Ensure that you drop your jaw entirely as you perform this exercise. Repeat the exercise several times in a day to get the best results.

  • Chin tucks — These exercises involve placing your chest and shoulders up as you pull your chin straight back. This move will help you to create a double chin. Ensure that you hold in this position for several seconds. You could repeat this procedure for up to ten times.

  • Tongue up — to perform this exercise, lift your tongue and place it on the roof of your mouth. With the tongue still touching the roof of your mouth, open and close your mouth several times.

  • Resisted closing of the mouth — Use your thumb and index finger to press your chin with one hand. Exert gentle pressure on your chin as you close your mouth. This will ensure that you strengthen the muscles that you normally use to chew food.

  • Moving the jaw forward — Place an object of about ¼ an inch between your front teeth. Move your lower jaw forward, ensuring that the bottom teeth lie in front of your top teeth. As you get used to the exercise, increase the object's size to make the exercise more challenging.

Other TMJ exercises that can help relieve the pain and discomfort of TMD include side-to-side jaw movement and resisted opening of the mouth,


Surgery is usually the last resort; your dentist will recommend surgery if all the other treatment methods for temporomandibular disorder do not work. Before you agree to undergo surgery, you should seek opinions from several dentists to ensure that no other treatment method can work. Three types of surgery can help to cure the temporomandibular disorder. The surgery that your dentist recommends will depend on certain factors, including the extent of the disorder. The surgeries include:


This surgery will be ideal if you do not have a history of temporomandibular disorders, and if your TMJ complications are not extensive. In case your jaws are locked due to TMD, your dentist is likely to recommend this surgery. The surgery is simple, and your dentist can conduct it in his/her office. The dentist will administer general anesthesia before inserting needles into the temporomandibular joint to clean it out. The dentist could use some special tools to dislodge the discs stuck between the joints and get rid of the joint's damaged tissue. The special tools would also help to unstick the joint in case you have locked jaws.


While performing this surgery, a doctor will use equipment known as an arthroscope, which is a special tool with a light and lens on it. The light and the lens will help your doctor to see the inner part of your joint. Before performing the surgery, the doctor will administer general anesthesia and then cut the front part of your ear to make room for the tool's insertion. He/she will hook the tool into a video screen to allow him/her to examine the condition of the temporomandibular joint and the areas around the joint. In case you have inflamed tissues within the joint, the doctor might remove it and realign the joint or the discs.

This surgery is minimally invasive; it only leaves a small scar and has fewer complications. You will not take long to recover from the operation; the recovery time is much shorter than that required for a major operation.

Open-joint Surgery

This surgery will come in handy if it is impossible to perform arthroscopy. If your jaw contains bony structures, which are wearing down, an open-joint surgery would be ideal. This surgery will also be ideal if you have tumors within the temporomandibular joint or around the joint. If your joint contains bone chips or is scarred, an open-joint surgery would be important.

Before performing the surgery, the doctor will administer general anesthesia before opening the entire area around the temporomandibular joint. Opening up the joint will enable the doctor to have better access and view of the joint. An open-joint surgery will need a longer period to heal. With this surgery, there is a higher chance of nerve injury and scarring.

Find a Dentist Near Me

You do not have to endure the pain and the discomfort that comes with temporomandibular disorder. If you suspect that you might be suffering from TMD, you should immediately see a dentist. A dentist will evaluate your situation and recommend the best treatment option. For the best TMD treatment, contact Northridge Dentist at 818-875-0216 and speak to one of our dentists.