How Is TMJ/TMD Treated?

 TMJ/TMD treatment​​​​​​​
  • By Courthouse Art of Dentistry
  • November 7, 2023
  • Do you experience jaw pain and discomfort? Do you hear popping or clicking sounds from your jaw that concern you? If so, you may be one of millions affected by temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMD for short).


    What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)?


    Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) affects the joints connecting the jawbone and skull. It can cause pain, clicking, popping, and locking of the jaw.




    • Misaligned teeth or improper bite — This irregular contact between upper and lower teeth can strain the mandible joint

    • Jaw injury — A blow to the jaw or face can damage the joint components

    • Arthritis — Inflammation and deterioration of the joint tissues can lead to pain and reduced mobility

    • Bruxism — Habitual grinding or clenching of teeth stresses the jaw muscles and joints

    • Stress — Chronic stress causes muscular tension in the jaw and neck




    • Pain in the jaw joint area

    • Clicking, popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth

    • Limited ability to open or close the mouth

    • Locking of the jaw

    • Headaches, earaches, neck, and shoulder pain


    Diagnosing TMD


    Doctors examine the jaw joints by feeling for tenderness and listening for noises. They also check the range of motion and alignment of the jaw. Imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs provide a view of the joint structure. These tests help identify arthritis, disc displacement, or bone deformities.




    Night Guard


    Wearing a night guard prevents grinding or clenching teeth during sleep. Night guards protect teeth from excessive wear and keep the bite in proper alignment to avoid joint strain. Custom night guards molded by a dentist work best.


    Splint Therapy


    Splints worn over the teeth help calm symptoms. Splints may reposition the jaw to take pressure off the joint. This allows tissues to heal. Splints also prevent tooth grinding that strains the jaw.


    Physical Therapy


    Physical therapy strengthens jaw muscles and improves function. Therapists use exercises, massage, and other techniques to relieve pain and stiffness. Therapy also helps people learn how to reduce joint strain.




    Over-the-counter pain relievers like Ibuprofen can temporarily ease discomfort. Muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs may also help. In severe cases, steroid injections reduce inflammation. Botox injections are an option to paralyze muscles and provide relief.


    Stress Management


    Stress makes TMJD worse by increasing muscle tension. Relaxation techniques and meditation help people manage stress. Massage therapy also reduces muscle tension caused by stress. Counseling can help people cope with pain.




    Surgery is helpful in severe cases when other treatments fail. Arthrocentesis washes out the joint to reduce inflammation. Arthroscopy trims or repairs damaged joint tissues. Joint replacement surgery implants an artificial joint.


    Lifestyle Changes


    Making healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce TMJD pain. Getting enough sleep prevents exhaustion that strains the jaw joint. Eating soft foods avoids overusing sore jaw muscles. Applying heat packs and cold compresses alleviates discomfort.


    Jaw Exercises


    Specific exercises strengthen jaw muscles and improve function. A physical therapist can recommend exercises to do at home. One simple exercise is to slowly open and close the mouth as wide as possible. Holding this stretch helps relax the jaw.


    Alternative Therapies


    Some patients find relief from alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic, and nutritional supplements. More research is necessary to confirm if these approaches effectively treat TMJD. Let your dentist know if you plan to try an alternative treatment.


    TMJ has many treatment options to relieve discomfort. See a dentist or doctor to determine the best therapies for your situation. With time and patience, proper treatment can successfully manage your symptoms.


    For more information on TMJ treatment options, visit Courthouse Art of Dentistry at our office in Arlington, Virginia. Call 703-260-9600 to schedule an appointment today.