Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders: Non-surgical treatment options

Dr. Hoss Abar

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Smiling, laughing, chatting, and eating are all facial motions you regularly produce using your jaw. However, those basic motions can be very painful if you have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). TMJ dysfunction affects around 12% of the population in the United States. Furthermore, women are more likely to get TMJ dysfunction than males. However, many non-surgical treatment options for TMJ disorder do not involve surgery and can be very effective in treating TMJ disorder.  

What are the causes and common symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder?   

Impairment to the jaw joints or surrounding tissues might result in TMJ dysfunction. Other causes include:  

  • Bruxism   
  • The TMJ is arthritic
  • Stress
  • Acute injury  
  • An incorrect bite  

TMJ dysfunction is more frequent in those aged 20 to 40, affecting women more than males. The following are the TMJ symptoms:   

  • Jaw ache
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Neck and shoulder discomfort   
  • Difficulty in opening your mouth wide
  • Jaws that "lock" in either an open or closed position
  • While opening or closing your mouth, you may hear a clicking, cracking, or grating noises in your jaw joint.
  • You have a weary look on your face 
  • Chewing is difficult 
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Modifications to the way your teeth fit together
  • Swollen face
  • Toothache
TMJ dysfunction

How is TMJ disorder diagnosed?   

Your dentist will diagnose the TMJ issue during a dental visit. Your medical professional will:  

  1. Examine your mouth's range of motion as you open and close it.  
  2. Feel around your jaw joints when you open your mouth.   
  3. Press on your face and jaw to identify the area of pain.  

Surgeons use radiographs (X-rays) to examine the jaw joints and identify the extent of the damage. These could include:  

  • X-rays from all angles: This dental X-ray provides a comprehensive image of your teeth, jawbone, and TMJs.  
  • CT scans (computed tomography): CBCT scans collect thousands of images of your teeth, jaws, facial bones, and sinuses. These images are then merged to create a detailed three-dimensional image. Dental CT scans give your doctor a more thorough look at your facial anatomy.  
  • MRI examinations: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be utilized in rare circumstances to examine soft tissues in and around the jaw joints. These photos depict the disc location, inflammation, and probable jaw locking. This can tell your doctor if the TMJ disc is working correctly and in good condition.  

For more care and treatment, you should consult a specialist. TMJ dysfunction is treated by an oral maxillofacial surgeon who addresses skeletal disorders.  

Non-Surgical treatment options for treating TMJ Disorder  

If you have TMJ dysfunction, your healthcare physician will most likely recommend conservative therapy options first. 

  • Splints and Nightguards: Splints and nightguards are dental appliances that fit over the top or bottom teeth. When worn, they ensure solid tooth contacts during closure. Similarly, mouth guards correct your bite by positioning your jaw correctly while worn. The common difference between splints and night guards is that they are only worn at night, whereas splints are worn all day. However, your healthcare provider can identify which oral appliance you require according to your specific case.   
  • Corrective dental treatments: involve tooth replacement or using crowns, bridges, or braces to restore your bite's balance and alignment.   
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: Low-level electrical currents are used in this therapy to relieve discomfort. This therapy relaxes your jaw joint and facial muscles. Most importantly, you can use this therapy at home or at your healthcare professional's office. 
  • Ultrasound: This deep heat therapy is delivered to the TMJ to reduce pain or enhance joint mobility.   
  • Injections: Your healthcare professional injects anesthetic or pain medicine into the delicate muscles of the face to reduce discomfort.   
  • Radiofrequency treatment: Radio waves stimulate the joint with low-level electrical stimulation, increasing blood flow and relieving TMJ.  

How can I reduce the risks of TMJ disorder?   

Sometimes outside factors, such as how your teeth fit together, cause TMJ problems. However, in some situations, you might be able to decrease your risk of TMJ dysfunction by doing the following:  

  • Developing proper posture.  
  • Wearing a sleep guard, mainly if you grind or clench your teeth.  
  • When participating in contact sports, wear a mouthguard.  
  • Practice face relaxation and stress-reduction exercises.  

When should I get TMJ condition treatment?  

Schedule an appointment with your healthcare practitioner immediately if you are experiencing common TMD symptoms such as jaw pain, trouble opening your mouth, or clicking and popping the jaw. If you grind or clench your teeth, you should make an appointment because this can lead to TMJ disorder.  


TMJ dysfunction, if left untreated, can severely impair daily functions such as biting, eating, and speaking. Jaw pain may appear insignificant, especially if it comes and goes. If you suspect you have TMJ problems, contact your doctor and make an appointment. Early treatment can help you control the illness and enhance your overall quality of life.

Contact your Pinole dentist, Dr. Hoss Abar, DDS, MSD at Abar Orthodontics, to know more about TMJ Non-surgical treatment options.


 Treatment options for TMJ Disorders

*This media/content or any other on this website does not prescribe, recommend, or prevent any treatment or procedure. Therefore, we highly recommend that you get the advice of a qualified dentist or other medical practitioners regarding your specific dental condition*

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