TMJ Treatment

How To Tell If You Have TMJ | Perfect White Smile

February 23, 2024

iagnosing TMJ disorder can be challenging for certain individuals because its symptoms can be similar to those of other medical conditions. To start, it's important to understand what TMJ disorder is and why it occurs. Keep reading to learn more about this condition and how to tell if you have TMJ.

What is TMJ disorder?

It's a condition that arises when there's an issue with your temporomandibular joints, which are situated on each side of your face and link your jawbone to your skull. These joints are incredibly intricate, functioning like sliding hinges whenever you move your mouth to open or close it. However, if these hinges aren't operating smoothly, it can result in discomfort and pain when you move your mouth.

Around 5% to 12% of adults face some form of TMJ disorder, with it being twice as common in women and individuals identified as female at birth (AFAB) compared to men and those identified as male at birth (AMAB). Typically, people between the ages of 20 and 40 are more prone to developing TMD.

Types of TMJ Dysfunction

Healthcare providers categorize TMJ disorders into three groups:

  • Disorders affecting the jaw joints.
  • Disorders impacting the chewing muscles.
  • Headaches resulting from TMJ dysfunction.

What are the symptoms to tell if you have TMJ disorder?

One common indication is persistent jaw pain experienced while eating, drinking, speaking, smiling, or laughing. However, there are other signs to watch out for. You might be dealing with TMJ disorder if you also notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and balance issues
  • Upper back and neck pain
  • Tingling or numbness in fingers
  • Clicking or popping sounds while chewing or opening your mouth
  • Dental problems like pain, unusual wear, chips, or cracks
  • Facial pain
  • Tinnitus (ringing ears), earaches, or a sensation of fullness in the ears

Even if you only have jaw pain, it's still possible to have TMJ disorder. However, it could also be a sign of another condition, such as one of the following.

Conditions that might be mistaken for TMJ disorder

The following conditions can be mistaken for TMJ disorder:

Trigeminal Neuralgia:

Apart from the two jaw joints, you also have two trigeminal nerves that carry sensations from your face to your brain. Trigeminal neuralgia occurs when these nerves become irritated, leading to symptoms like facial pain, toothaches, ear pain, numbness, or tingling—but typically on just one side of the face. Additionally, trigeminal neuralgia often feels like a sudden, shooting pain similar to an electric shock.

Cluster, Migraine, or Tension Headaches:

While many headaches are felt in the forehead, certain types—such as chronic cluster, migraine, or tension headaches—can begin at the sides of the face and temples before spreading outward. This can be similar to the headache patterns observed in TMJ disorder.

Sinus Issues:

Symptoms such as headaches and temple pain are often experienced in both TMJ disorder and chronic sinus pain or infections. Chronic sinus problems might be linked to allergies or structural sinus issues. Additionally, an infection could lead to symptoms like discharge or even a fever.

Other Causes of Jaw and Facial Pain:

Various other conditions, such as facial injuries, a tooth abscess, or herpes zoster (shingles), can also result in pain similar to TMJ disorder symptoms.

What's the main reason behind TMJ dysfunction?

It's not straightforward, as it can result from a variety of factors or a combination of them.

TMJ causes can include:

  • A jaw injury, like a broken or dislocated jaw.
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth (bruxism).
  • Arthritis affects your jaw joint.
  • Misalignment of your teeth, called malocclusion.
  • Stress.

How do healthcare providers diagnose temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD)?

Healthcare providers typically diagnose TMJ disorder during a dental checkup or physical examination. During this evaluation, they will:

  • Observe the range of motion as you open and close the mouth.
  • Apply some pressure to your face and jaw to find areas of tenderness.
  • Palpate the jaw joints while you perform mouth movements.

Additionally, they may conduct imaging tests to obtain a more detailed view of your jaw joints and surrounding structures. These imaging tests may include:

  • Dental X-rays.
  • CT (computed tomography) scans.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
  • TMJ arthroscopy(used for both diagnosis and, in some cases, treatment)
how to tell if you have tmj

How do healthcare providers approach treating TMJ dysfunction?

Treatment for TMJ depends on various factors, including the cause and the intensity of your symptoms. Generally, providers begin with noninvasive options, such as medications or nonsurgical methods. However, if your symptoms persist, jaw surgery may be necessary.


There are different types of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications that can help alleviate TMJ symptoms, such as:

  • Pain relievers like acetaminophen.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • Muscle relaxers are particularly beneficial for those who grind or clench their teeth.
  • Antidepressants can alter pain perception.

Some medications, including antidepressants, can potentially trigger bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching). It's important to discuss the pros and cons of specific medications with your healthcare provider.

Nonsurgical TMJ Treatments

Nonsurgical options for TMJ treatment include:

  • Mouth guards:

Dental appliances like oral splints or mouth guards can reposition your jaw or mitigate the effects of grinding and clenching. Custom mouthguards from a dentist are recommended as an over-the-counter option.

  • Physical therapy:

TMJ exercises can help stretch your jaw muscles and enhance the strength of the muscles around your jaw joints.

  • Trigger point injections:

This involves either dry needling or injecting substances like corticosteroids or botulinum toxin into painful muscle knots in your jaw.

  • Ultrasound therapy:

This treatment utilizes sound waves to deliver heat deep into your tissues, enhancing blood flow and promoting muscle relaxation.

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS):

Low-level electrical currents are used to help relax jaw muscles.

  • Behavioral changes:

Improving posture and refraining from habits like chewing on ice can help alleviate symptoms.

Surgical TMJ Treatments

If medications and nonsurgical interventions prove ineffective, surgical options may be considered. These include:

  • Arthrocentesis:

Providers may use this procedure to identify the cause of jaw joint discomfort and alleviate symptoms by removing fluid from the joint using a needle.

  • TMJ arthroscopy:

This minimally invasive procedure involves making a small incision near the ear and inserting a tube equipped with a camera and surgical instruments to address issues like bone reshaping or scar tissue removal.

  • Open-joint surgery:

In cases where keyhole surgery isn't feasible, a surgeon may opt for open-joint surgery, requiring a larger incision to directly access the jaw joint.

Surgical TMJ Treatments


How to Tell if You Have TMJ?" Well, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of TMJ to address this prevalent yet often misunderstood condition. By familiarizing yourself with the indicators, you can take proactive steps toward seeking proper diagnosis and treatment for TMJ disorder. Also, the best way to tell if you have TMJ disorder or something else is to consult a specialist

Ready to take the first step to achieve a healthier smile and put an end to TMJ discomfort? Book an appointment with Perfect White Smile in Beverly Hills, CA, today. New patients can call us at (424) 284-8215 while existing patients can reach us at (310) 276-4537.


Can TMJ dysfunction be prevented?

Preventing TMD may not always be possible due to some factors beyond your control. However, there are actions you can take to lower your risk:

  • If you clench or grind your teeth, consider wearing a mouth guard while sleeping.
  • Wear a mouth guard during contact sports to protect your jaw.
  • Focus on maintaining good posture throughout the day.
  • Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like meditation or mindfulness into your daily routine.

How long does TMJ dysfunction usually last?

It varies. For some, TMJ issues may resolve within one to two weeks without intervention, while others might struggle with symptoms for months or even years. TMJ disorder can be either a short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) condition.

Who can help with TMJ disorder?

Professionals who specialize in treating TMJ disorder include

  • Oral surgeons
  • Orthodontists
  • Otolaryngologists
  • Prosthodontists (dentists specializing in dental prostheses and appliances)

How Can We Help

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Located in Beverly Hills Perfect White Smile creates the world's most beautiful smiles and relieves patients of TMJ symptoms. Many times, both can be achieved at the same time in the same procedure!

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