TMJ Disorders

TMJ Surgery Overview

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TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. The symptoms are characterized by pain or a “clicking” sound in the jaw, which occurs when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles do not work together correctly. Early detection and treatment are important, as the temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull.


Trouble With Your Jaw?

TMJ disorders develop for many reasons, such as clenching or grinding of teeth, tightening of jaw muscles, or injury or disease damaging the jaw joint. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. This results in the cartilage disk (cushion) of the jaw joint slipping out of position. The results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when you open your mouth.


Do You Have A TMJ Disorder?

Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaws?
Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?


If you answered Yes to these questions, there is an increased likelihood that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will help you better understand how they are treated.



Initial treatment goals work to relieve the muscle spasm and joint pain. This is usually done with pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants. Steroids can also be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Some self-care treatments can also be effective and include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Exercising your jaw
  • Practicing good posture

Stress management techniques and physical therapy may also be recommended. Temporary clear splints may also be applied. The splints (night guard) fit over the top and bottom teeth to help keep teeth apart, relaxing muscles and reducing pain. There are different appliances that correct different problems, which will be discussed prior to treatment.


What About Bite Correction Or Surgery?

TMJ often causes problems with how your teeth fit together. Corrective bite treatment includes bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, and restorative dental work. Surgical options such as arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases.