Maine Dentistry > Blog > What is TMJ/TMD?

What is TMJ/TMD?

If you’ve ever had a clicking or popping in your jaw, you’ve probably heard of TMJ. The TMJ plays an essential role in the jaw’s movement and function. Positioned on either side of the head, the TMJ connects your jawbone to your skull, helping make all the hinging and sliding movements required for human speech, eating, and more. Many disorders can occur with the TMJ. This collection of disorders is abbreviated as TMD/TMJ. It can be a bit confusing, but just know that most of the time when someone says TMJ, they’re talking about a disorder of the TMJ.

Causes of TMJ Disorders

TMJ disorders are a group of conditions that impair the TMJ’s function, leading to jaw pain, migraines, hearing issues (ringing, feeling like you are underwater, etc) tightness and discomfort in the jaw muscles, difficulty eating chewy foods, and overall diminished quality of life. The most common causes include:



These disorders are typically linked to an unbalanced bite which causes the muscles in the jaw and temple area to overwork themselves. Ideally, when we bite down we have equal pressure on the left and right sides of our jaw. With slightly more pressure on the back teeth and little to no pressure on the front teeth. If we hit on one side first, then the muscles on the other side have to work harder to close and this also causes a compression of the TMJ and the ear canal (place your finger next to your ear while you open and close your jaw and feel how close the joint is to your ear). This compression over time causes jaw pain, clenching, grinding, clicking, popping and issues with the ear. If we hit heavy on our front teeth,our lower jaw will pull back aggressively and this causes headaches in the temple area (place your hand on the side of your face and feel the muscles move when you clench slowly). These factors can lead to the exhaustion of the muscles in the jaw and temple which trigger migraines, jaw pain and ultimately lead to tooth damage.

Recognizing TMJ Disorder Symptoms

TMJ disorders can cause different symptoms for different people. However, the majority of TMJ disorder sufferers complain of:



TMJ Disorder Treatment Options

While TMJ flare ups occasionally resolve on their own, TMJ sufferers will require intervention to completely get rid of their symptoms. Short-term treatment options to deal with flare ups are:



Long term treatment options typically include:


Frequently Asked Questions About TMJ Disorders

Will TMJ go away on its own?

TMJ disorders will not resolve on their own. However, flare-ups will come and go and they typically just need a minor intervention to resolve the temporary pain associated with it. Most TMJ/TMD patients will require dental intervention at some point to treat the issues.

My jaw pops and clicks but it doesn’t hurt. Do I need to see a dentist?

Yes, if you’re hearing pops and/or clicks when you open and close your mouth, you must schedule an appointment with a dentist qualified to treat TMJ disorders. Delaying treatment can cause symptoms to worsen, making it harder and more expensive to correct later on.

Seeking TMJ Treatment in Maine

Consulting with one of our dental professionals at Maine Dentistry in Auburn, Gray, or Portland is a great step towards understanding the root causes of your TMJ disorder and starting a personalized treatment plan. With our specialized 3 dimensional scans, we can easily and quickly diagnose and explain your specific disorder. Long-term relief from headaches, migraines, tooth damage, and other TMJ/TMD symptoms is within your reach.

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