Got Jaw Pain? TMJ Awareness Month

Got Jaw Pain? TMJ Awareness Month

Cracking, snapping, or grating sounds when you open or close your mouth. Jaw pain. Ringing or aching ears. Difficulty chewing or the jaw joint locking in place. Headaches or migraines. Do you have some or all of these symptoms? If so, you may have a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder—also known as TMD—which can range from mild to severe. For TMJ awareness month, let’s go into more detail about what TMJ disorders are, what causes them, methods of treatment, and how to prevent symptoms from progressing.

What are TMJ Disorders?

The two joints located near the ears on either side of the jaw are known as the TMJ. It is the dysfunction of these small but essential joints that causes TMJ disorders to occur. Unfortunately, women are twice as likely to be affected by TMD as men, and science has yet to determine the reasons why.

TMJ disorders are incredibly common, affecting over 3 million people in the US alone. Even if you don’t have a TMJ disorder yourself, you probably know someone who does, so spreading awareness of the symptoms can benefit everyone.

You may wonder how TMJ disorders start in the first place. The causes aren’t always apparent, but some potential reasons include:

  • Bruxism (a catch-all term for grinding, clenching, and bracing your jaw and teeth)
  • Jaw injury
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Stress
  • Arthritis

Bruxism most often happens during sleep, and people are often unaware that they are doing it. If you sleep with a partner, ask if they have noticed any grinding sounds. You can also look inside your mouth for a scalloped (wavy) pattern on the sides of your tongue—this can indicate bruxism.

Additionally, certain medications can make bruxism start or become worse. Many common mental health medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics can cause bruxism.

Illustration of a man and woman both clutching their jaws in pain

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

If you have a TMJ disorder but it doesn’t cause pain or limit the range of motion in your jaw, it probably does not require treatment. For cases that are more disruptive, it is a good idea to be evaluated by a medical professional to get customized advice or to be recommended to a specialist. They will likely do a physical examination of your face and neck, and they may suggest an x-ray or MRI depending on the results.

Here are a few simple at-home treatments you can try:

  • Exercises to stretch and strengthen the jaw (such as the ones listed here)
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Cold or hot packs on the jaw
  • Eating soft foods and avoiding chewing on gum and ice
  • Maintaining good posture
  • Once an hour, mindfully unclench your jaw and place the tongue on the top palette of your mouth behind the teeth

For treatments that are a step above home care, you can get a custom night guard made to help mitigate damage and allow the jaw to relax overnight. Dentists and doctors can also prescribe medications in the muscle relaxer, anxiety reduction, or pain management categories.

More medically invasive options for TMJ disorders include:

  • Prolotherapy, in which an irritant solution is injected with the hope of triggering the body to repair the joint;
  • Arthrocentesis, a minor procedure that can help with inflammation;
  • Botox injections, though there is little evidence that these work to effectively treat TMD;
  • Arthroscopy, a procedure where a doctor makes a small incision with a camera in order to view and treat jaw joint dysfunction;
  • and major surgery, including TMJ implants that replace some or all of the jaw joint. This is a last-resort option reserved for only the most severe cases.

If you think you have a TMJ disorder and home treatments aren’t helping, contact our office for an evaluation so we can help you find a solution!

Smith Valley Smiles

2311 Highway 208
Smith, NV 89430
Phone: 775-465-2388


TMJ/TMD: Common Causes and Treatment

The Temporomandibular Joint commonly known as the TMJ acts as a sliding hinge that connects the lower jaw to the skull. This makes it possible for our jaw to move in all directions to assist with things like eating, drinking, chewing, talking and even yawning. However, this joint can become damaged in many ways resulting in TMD.


TMD which stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder is a range of conditions due to having abnormal jaw function. The most common being myofascial pain which is the discomfort and pain in muscles controlling the jaw, neck, and shoulders. Others are dislocation or displacement of the condyle, the rounded part at the end of the jaw. As well as degenerative joint diseases such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.


Common causes of TMD are:

  • StressStress
  • Facial injury
  • Teeth grinding
  • Genetics
  • Misaligned jaw
  • Malocclusion of the teeth (crossbite, overbite, underbite, open bite, or crowded teeth)
  • Missing teeth


There is an array of causes for TMD and most result in muscle spasms, tension, and pain. It can also lead to lockjaw or difficulty opening and closing your mouth. Other symptoms include:


  • Headaches and migraines
  • Worn or loose teeth
  • Muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders
  • Pain behind eyes
  • Clicking or popping of the jaw
  • Earaches or clogged feeling in ears
  • Cramping in the jaw


It’s recommended that you avoid crunchy foods and chewing gum. These can exacerbate damage to your TMJ. There are treatments for TMD and many can be done from the comfort of your home.


  • Apply a hot or cold moist compress to the affected area for 10-20 minutes at a time
  • Exercises such as slowly massaging and stretching the jaw
  • Doctor recommended anti-inflammatory

JAW PAIN_ (1).png

If the TMD is more severe your dentist may recommend a two-phase treatment. Phase 1 typically includes the use of an orthotic device that sits on your lower or upper teeth, 24/7 for 4-6 months. Afterwards when the pain levels have decreased, phase 2 will begin. This phase can include any of the following:


  • Wearing a long term removable orthotic, full time or part-time
  • Replacing missing teeth
  • Orthodontic treatment such as braces
  • Restore all the lower and/or upper teeth with crowns and veneers to preserve the optimal occlusion (bite) achieved in phase I.


Your TMJ is delicate and can be the source of much pain and discomfort. Somethings are just unavoidable, like a facial or dental trauma. It can be challenging dealing with stress or even your genetics. No matter the reason, there are treatments available to help alleviate the symptoms you don’t need to suffer in silence.  Remember if you are experiencing oral pain call us right away!


Smith Valley Smiles

2311 Highway 208
Smith, NV 89430
Phone: 775-465-2388