TMJ: How it Might Be Affecting You, And How to Find Relief
By Kate May
Mar 8, 2018
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
Pain in your face and jaw can be excruciating, and it’s even worse when you don’t know what’s causing it. For many of us, facial pain is related to the temporomandibular joint. It’s the hinge-like joint that connects your upper and lower jaw bones. Anytime this joint isn’t working properly, it could mean you’re having symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ.
This complex joint is a series of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones that move your jaw forward, backward, and side to side. When anything goes wrong in your jaw joint, you can experience pain and trouble moving your jaw. To understand TMJ and what treatment you’ll need, it helps to know what symptoms to look for.
If you’re experiencing any of the following, you may be dealing with a temporomandibular joint disorder:
While it’s usually easy to recognize the symptoms of temporomandibular joint and nerve pain, it’s more difficult to determine what’s causing your pain. Your doctor or dentist may not be able to tell you what’s causing your TMJ pain. However, a TMJ disorder can occur under the following situations:
One of the first people to notice or diagnose a TMJ disorder is usually your dentist. However, your family physician, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist, or an oral surgeon can also diagnose and treat your TMJ. Typically, your doctor will check your jaw joints for pain and tenderness. They’ll also listen for any clicking or grating sounds when you move your jaw and check your jaw’s movement and facial muscles. X-rays or further testing like a CAT scan or MRI can also help your doctor rule out other issues and give a full picture of what’s happening in your face.
TMJ has many treatment options. Your first line of care can start at home. But after you’ve exhausted at-home treatment options for your jaw, you may need to see your doctor for further care.
As you know and practice self-care for your temporomandibular jaw disorder, you may find relief and healing. You can do the following at home:
See your doctor if the pain and tenderness in your jaw is persistent, or if you can’t open and close your mouth. A doctor may recommend the following types of treatment:
Anytime you have aching pain in your face, temple, ear, or jaw, you may be dealing with TMJ. As you understand your symptoms, take care of yourself at home, and counsel with your doctor, you can find relief. Make an appointment with your doctor to learn more about TMJ and what you can do to relieve your symptoms.