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Causes, symptoms, & treatments of Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

In this article

    Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TJD) affects millions in the North America with estimates suggesting up to 10 million individuals experience it annually.

    The most evident sign is often persistent jaw pain or discomfort, especially when chewing or speaking. Some mistakes when facing TJD include ignoring early symptoms, excessive gum chewing, and teeth grinding.

    We'll introduce symptoms and treatments to you in detail and empower you to manage this condition effectively. Now, you can look for valuable insights on managing TJD.

    What is Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TJD)

    Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TJD), also known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), refers to a group of conditions affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and muscles surrounding the jaw. This disorder can manifest as pain, stiffness, or dysfunction in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles and impact one's ability to chew, speak, and even open or close the mouth comfortably.

    The history of TJD dates back centuries, with documented cases dating to ancient civilizations. However, it gained significant attention in the 20th century with advancements in dental and medical diagnostics.

    The understanding of TJD has evolved over time, from primarily dental concerns to a broader recognition of its multifactorial etiology involving various factors such as genetics, trauma, stress, and parafunctional habits like teeth grinding.

    TJD often coexists or shares overlapping symptoms with other conditions such as headaches, facial pain syndromes, and cervical spine disorders. Its contiguous nature means that dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint can influence or be influenced by neighboring anatomical structures. You can know its causes and symptoms in the following.

    Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction causes

    Here are the six main reasons it may happen to you.

    Trauma or injury

    Physical trauma to the jaw, such as a blow to the face or whiplash injury, can disrupt the normal functioning of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This can lead to inflammation, misalignment of the joint, or damage to the surrounding tissues, resulting in TJD symptoms.

    Bruxism (Teeth grinding or clenching)

    Persistent clenching or grinding of the teeth, often occurring during sleep (nocturnal bruxism) or due to stress, can exert excessive pressure on the TMJ and surrounding muscles. Over time, this can lead to muscle fatigue, joint inflammation, and the development of TJD.

    Malocclusion (Misalignment of teeth

    An abnormal bite or misalignment of the teeth, known as malocclusion, can place uneven stress on the temporomandibular joint during chewing and jaw movements. This chronic strain can contribute to the development of TJD symptoms over time.

    Arthritis

    Various forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, can affect the temporomandibular joint and results in inflammation, joint degeneration, and cartilage damage. These changes can result in TJD symptoms, including pain, stiffness, and restricted jaw movement.

    Stress and emotional factors

    Psychological stress, anxiety, and emotional tension can manifest physically in the body and cause increased muscle tension and jaw clenching. Chronic stress may contribute to the development or exacerbation of TJD symptoms and stresses the importance of stress management in its prevention and management.

    Genetic predisposition

    Some may have a genetic predisposition to developing TJD, with certain genetic factors influencing the structure and function of the temporomandibular joint and surrounding tissues. While genetic factors alone may not cause TJD, they can increase susceptibility to the condition when combined with other environmental or lifestyle factors.

    Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction symptoms

    Check if you have encounter such signs of TJD. If necessary, try to find a doctor.

    Jaw pain: Persistent or recurrent pain in the jaw joint (TMJ) area is one of the hallmark symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TJD). The pain may be localized to the joint itself or radiate to surrounding areas such as the temples, ears, or neck. It can vary in intensity from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain, and may worsen with jaw movements such as chewing, speaking, or yawning.

    Restricted jaw movement: Individuals with TJD may experience difficulty or discomfort when opening or closing their mouth fully. This restriction in jaw movement, known as trismus, can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by clicking, popping, or grating sensations in the jaw joint during movement.

    Muscle tenderness: Tenderness or soreness in the muscles of the jaw, face, and neck is a common symptom of TJD. These muscles may feel tender to the touch or exhibit increased sensitivity, especially in the morning upon waking or after prolonged periods of jaw activity, such as chewing gum or clenching the teeth.

    Facial pain: TJD can cause facial pain that is often described as dull, aching, or throbbing in nature. This pain may be localized to specific areas of the face, such as the cheeks, temples, or jawline, and may worsen with jaw movement or prolonged periods of talking, chewing, or facial expressions.

    Headaches: Headaches, particularly tension-type headaches or migraines, are common symptoms associated with TJD. These headaches may occur in conjunction with jaw pain or independently and can vary in intensity from mild to severe. They may be located in the temples, forehead, or back of the head and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as light sensitivity or nausea.

    7 TJD treatments and relaxation techniques

    If you cannot endure TJD or want to fix it, here are some methods.

    Self-care strategies

    You can implement self-care practices such as jaw rest, avoiding hard or chewy foods, and practicing stress-reduction techniques like meditation or deep breathing can help alleviate symptoms of TJD and promote relaxation of the jaw muscles. This Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction self-care method is helpful.

    Physical therapy

    It's a type of Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction physical therapy. You can engage in targeted exercises and stretches prescribed by a physical therapist can improve jaw mobility, strengthen supporting muscles, and reduce pain associated with TJD. These exercises may include gentle jaw stretches, resistance training, and posture correction techniques.

    Oral appliances (Mouthguards)

    Custom-fitted oral appliances, such as splints or mouthguards, can help alleviate symptoms of TJD by preventing teeth grinding or clenching and reduce strain on the jaw joint, and promoting proper alignment of the teeth and jaw during sleep. This is one of the best Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction mouthguard methods.

    Massage therapy

    Here are some Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction massage methods. Massage techniques, including trigger point therapy and myofascial release, can help alleviate muscle tension, reduce pain, and improve blood flow to the jaw and surrounding muscles. Professional massage therapy sessions or self-massage techniques can be beneficial in managing TJD symptoms.

    Medication

    Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may provide temporary relief from TJD-related pain and inflammation. In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe muscle relaxants or tricyclic antidepressants to help alleviate muscle tension and improve sleep quality.

    Heat and cold therapy

    You can try applying heat packs or cold compresses to the jaw joint can help reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and promote relaxation of the muscles. Alternating between heat and cold therapy may provide additional relief from TJD symptoms.

    Stress management techniques

    What about managing stress levels through relaxation techniques such as yoga, guided imagery, or biofeedback that can help reduce muscle tension and alleviate symptoms of TJD? Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be beneficial in addressing underlying stressors and promoting healthy coping strategies.

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