TMJ Symptoms & Treatment

TMJ Pain| Symptoms, Treatment, and Causes

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) occurs as a result of problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), jaw muscles and nerves on one or both side of the head that result in jaw, face, and head and neck pain.  TMD is not directly related to any one cause, but dentists believe possible causes can be attributed to:





  • Grinding or clenching the teeth
  • Dislocation of the soft cushion between the ball and socket
  • Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
  • Stress that causes a person to tighten the associated muscles or clench the teeth

The most common factor contributing to TMD is a bite problem which effects the joint itself.  The TMJ is involved in many functions of muscles, ligaments and bones.  The TMJ is comprised of a disc between a ball and socket that serves to cushion the forces on the joint and enables the jaw to move and function normally.  Any of the above conditions may cause a properly functioning TMJ to experience pain.

TMJ Pain and TMD Symptoms 

The symptoms of TMD can be temporary or can last for many years.  TMD in women is more common than men and is most commonly seen in people between the ages of 20 and 40.

Common TMD Symptoms Include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when jaw movements occur
  • Limited ability to open mouth very wide
  • Jaws that "lock" in the open or closed position
  • Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Teeth that do not align properly
  • Frequent tension headaches

Diagnosing TMD

Many dentists are familiar with the pains and symptoms associated with TMD and can give you a full evaluation to determine if you suffer from TMD and what your treatment options are.  There are many other conditions that can cause similar symptoms including a toothache, sinus problems, arthritis, or gum disease and your dentist will conduct a clinical examination to determine the cause of your symptoms.  You can expect your dentist to examine your temporomandibular joints for pain or tenderness; listen for clicking, popping or grating sounds during jaw movement; look for limited motion or locking of the jaw while opening or closing the mouth; and examine bite and facial muscle function.  X-rays may be required to view the entire jaws, TMJ, and teeth to make sure other problems aren't causing the symptoms.  The first step is to see what is causing you pain and to find a treatment to alleviate your problem.

Treating TMD

Some causes of TMD may effect your bite and subsequently impact the longevity of any smile makeover restorations you may want your dentist to provide.  You may require a bite adjustment if problems such as wear, tooth mobility, muscle pain or other signs of malocclusion are observed.  A stable bite is essential not only for esthetic reasons but also because maintaining a stable occlusion helps ensure that your upper and lower teeth will come into contact in the most comfortable and pain-free manner possible, without unnecessary force that could lead to headaches or fractured restorations.

The treatment of TMD depends on your specific conditions and can be determined by your dentist.  Many dentists employ TMJ therapies that can restore optimal bite and neuromuscular function with non-surgical temporomandibular joint therapy.  These types of therapies such as reconstructive dental work and oral appliances can reposition your jaw gently so that the muscles, bones, nerves, and teeth work in harmony.

TMJ Treatment 

A common TMD treatment method is the NTI-tss device that helps relieve the pain associated with TMJ.  The NTI-tss device is a Tension Suppression System that has been dubbed the most effective FDA-approved method of migraine prevention.  The device is simple, fast, effective and inexpensive.  Users typically experience better sleep immediately following the first night of use, and the pains associated with TMJ are greatly diminished shortly there afterward.  You can learn more about the NTI-tss device by visiting their website www.nti-tss.com.  

Here is a simple demonstration of the efficacy of NTI-tss device:

A) Begin by gently biting on the moon portion of your fingernail of your index finger, using your central incisors. Only bite down hard enough to create slight discomfort.

B) Now try biting with a canine tooth on the same spot of your fingernail as you did with the central incisors using the same amount of force.

You should experience more pain biting with the canine tooth than with the incisors... Why?

The incisor teeth are intended to not only incise (cut) food, but to be "hardness monitors" of what you're biting into.  They help you know whether something will be too hard to chew.

The canine teeth care designed to grab onto food, basically stabilizing your dinner so that it won't get away.  Because the intensity of muscular activity created once the canine teeth have been engaged is under less voluntary control, the contacting canine teeth encourage jaw clenching.  This clenching is associated with the pains that come along with TMJ, and the remedy lies in providing alterations of the biting surfaces of the teeth.

The NTI-tss Device

1. A full coverage splint that is intended to mimic the thickness of the intended space between the teeth when the jaw musculature is supposed to be at rest provides both canine and posterior teeth contact, thereby allowing for perpetuation of parafunctional muscular activity.

2. The splint can alter the clenching intensity by adapting its thickness, depending on the amount of pressure applied to particular teeth.  If contacts are "heavier" in the molar region, clenching intensity can be inhibited.  Alternatively, if contacting is prevalent in the canine region, clenching is reflexive.

3. An anterior (forward) bite plane reduces parafunctional intensity of the masseters (thick muscle in the cheek that closes jaws during chewing), and to a degree, the lateral pterygoids (muscle that assists in opening the jaw), but still provides canine contact for temporalis clenching.

The NTI-tss device reduces clenching intensity and therefore reducing any pains associated with TMJ by exploiting the mechanisms of the incisor teeth and by avoiding the engagement of the canine and molar teeth when the jaw is centered (A), and when it is in excursive positions (B).

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