Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, commonly called TMJ disorders, are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. We don’t know for certain how many people have TMJ disorders, but some estimates suggest that more than ten million Americans are affected. The disorders appear to be more common among women than men.
What are the signs and symptoms? A variety of symptoms may be linked to TMJ disorders: Pain, particularly in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint, is the most common. Other symptoms include
- Radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Painful clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
For most people, discomfort from TMJ disorders eventually goes away on its own. Simple self-care practices such as eating soft foods, using ice packs, avoiding yawning too wide and gum chewing, and doing gentle jaw-stretching exercises are often effective in easing symptoms.
If treatment is needed, it should be based on a reasonable diagnosis, conservative, reversible, and customized to your special needs. Avoid treatments that can cause permanent changes in the bite or jaw. If irreversible treatments such as surgery are recommended, be sure to get a reliable second opinion.