TMJ Treatment and Relief: Expert Care for Jaw Health and Comfort

TMJPatients with temporomandibular disorder (also called “TMD” or “TMJD”) feel pain and discomfort in their temporomandibular joints (TMJs).


The American Dental Association states that TMD affects more than 15 percent of adults nationwide. TMD can impact all areas of the face, leaving its victims in tremendous pain.


Dental treatments for TMJ dysfunction and discomfort can include oral splints, a custom mouth guard, replacing missing teeth, adjusting a bad bite, or filling gaps between teeth. However, each patient’s treatment is tailored to their source of pain, and not every patient has the same treatment plan because of this.


If left untreated, severe cases may require surgery to repair the joint. Treatment times may vary, so consult a dental physician about your best treatment plan.

Understanding Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain


TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joints, which connect the lower jawbone and (formally) the mandible to the temporal bone at the bottom of the skull on the left and right sides of the head.


You can feel these joints of the TMJ structure just in front of your ears whenever you open and close your jaw (for example, when eating or talking). Symptoms of TMJ disorders and TMJ pain can range from mild to chronic pain, including pain in the jaw joint, facial pain, jaw pain, upper and lower teeth pain, or any other discomfort in attached structures such as muscles and ligaments.

Three Types of TMJ Disorder

TML Neuropathic Pain

There are three main types of temporomandibular disorders (TMDs), which are characterized by the site of pain manifestation.

#1 Jaw Joint: The most common type of TMJ pain is in the jaw joint.

#2 Headache-Inducing TMD: Aptly named, this type of TMJ disorder induces painful headaches, and not just at the pain source.

#3 Chewing Muscles: This type of TMJ disorder causes clicking, locking, and pain in the orofacial muscles used when chewing food, making mealtime miserable.

TMD Symptoms


If you regularly experience any of the following symptoms, temporomandibular joint dysfunction might be the source:


  • Facial, neck, or shoulder aches when you chew, speak, or open your mouth widely
  • Inability to fully open your mouth without jaw pain
  • Jaw locking
  • Jaw clicking
  • Difficulty in controlling jaw movement
  • Jaw discomfort when biting
  • Swelling of surrounding muscles in the cheek area
  • Toothaches, headaches, or neck aches
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss

Causes of Temporomandibular Jaw Joint (TMJ) Pain

The exact cause of TMD has yet to be identified, but dentists believe symptoms could come from problems with jaw muscles or parts of the jaw joint. While a singular cause does not lead to TMJ symptoms, there are a few main sources.


Orofacial Complications

TMJ disorders involve pain in orofacial (interconnected oral and facial) structures such as the jaw muscles and jaw joint, so other orofacial-related complications like a lower jaw injury, obstructive sleep apnea, teeth grinding or clenching, or the strain of treatments like wearing orthodontic braces might contribute.



Patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can all be especially susceptible to TMJ pain. Different types of arthritis can affect the TM jaw joints by deteriorating bone or fibrocartilage.



Many people clench their jaw when stressed, so stress-induced tightening of the jaw or facial muscles is another common risk factor for TMDs.

TMJ Diagnosis and Specialist Care


To get help with TMJ pain, start by visiting your general healthcare provider or dentist. Describe your TMJ pain and related symptoms and how you believe they are associated with TMJ disorders. They can refer you to a TMJ provider, or you can select one yourself!


Temporomandibular joint disorders are usually diagnosed by a TMJ specialist, not general care dentists or doctors. Many insurance providers require referrals to cover treatment with TMJ specialists.


A general healthcare provider or dentist will perform a physical examination of your jaw area to assess your pain level or listen for painful clicking to mention in their referral.


Diagnosis at the TMJ specialist office will include different tests, which may include:


  • X-Rays
  • MRI scans
  • TMJ arthroscopy: In this lower-risk surgery alternative to open-joint surgery called TMJ arthroscopy, a sleep medicine dentist or doctor inserts a cannula as a tunnel to slide a tiny camera (called an arthroscope) through to assess the state of the jaw joint for cartilage corrosion, inflammation, bone deterioration, or another cause of the TMJ disorder.
  • CT scans

Effective TMJ Treatments & Ways to Manage and Ease Pain


Although there is no cure-all treatment for TMJ dysfunction, many promising options are available to help reduce symptoms of TMJ disorders, including aching and soreness in the face and jaw muscles.

Physical Therapy and Chiropractic

Physical Therapy is one of the most beneficial treatment options for TMJ dysfunction and its complications. Any physical therapist specializing in TMJ dysfunction will instruct patients on effective relaxation techniques (especially for stress-related TMJ problems), how to gently stretch to relieve stiffness in the orofacial area (without overdoing it), how to practice good posture, and how to correct poor posture.

Night Guards for TMJ Relief

Mouth guards and oral splints create a barrier between your top and bottom jaw to prevent teeth grinding and can also help to bring the lower jaw into proper alignment to ease discomfort. Almost anyone can benefit from wearing mouthguards to bed because they can be helpful not only for individuals who already have a TMJ disorder diagnosis but also for preventing the development of TMJ disorders.

TMJ Massage + Other Nonsurgical Treatments

One non-surgical treatment to explore is TMJ massage. Look for licensed massage therapists with special training for clients suffering from TMJ pain.

Other non-surgical treatments for TMJ disorders include:

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This is a nonsurgical therapy clinicians administer using a device with the same name. In this massage-like treatment, clinicians put small, harmless, sticky pads onto the areas where patients feel aches and soreness. Attached to the band-aid-like appliques are wires hooked to the TENS machine, which transmits low-level electric pulses to the nerves, manually relaxing the jaw and facial muscles.
  • Botox, corticosteroid injections, or dry needling at trigger points
  • Deep tissue heat therapy administered through an ultrasound
  • Radiowave therapy that increases blood flow to facilitate faster healing

Medication for Pain Relief

As with most painful disorders, a standard treatment for TMJ disorder involves medication. These medications may include:


Anti-Depressants: The amount of pain you experience depends on your brain’s perception of it; anti-depressants can help to improve this for many people.


Over-the-counter medications like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)—i.e., Asprin, Motrin, Aleve, and Ibuprofen—are often effective; however, excessive use can lead to liver and kidney problems. One way to mitigate this side effect is to rotate between those with different ingredients. You should also avoid taking them to prevent pain and instead take them when soreness begins.


Prescription Medications: Stronger pain relievers can be prescribed for TMJ problems, but they should be taken with caution and under professional supervision because these substances can have highly addictive properties.


Muscle Relaxers: Since stress-induced TMD involves muscle tightening, muscle relaxants can help ease discomfort.

Oral Surgery

Oral surgery is often a last resort for TMJ disorders, generally pursued when the patient’s symptoms are unbearable and nothing else seems to work. The main options oral surgeons provide are open joint surgery on the jaw joints, surgery while implementing TMJ arthroscopy, and arthrocentesis.

Finding a TMJ Dentist or Specialist Near You


There are a few ways to find a TMJ specialist. The most traditional method is asking your GP or dentist if they have recommendations and if they can provide a referral. Coming to our offices with a referral helps the patient onboarding process go smoothly, but we take patients with or without one!


At TMJ and Sleep Specialists of Alabama, we have extensive experience treating TMJ pain and related disorders. We’ll happily help you find relief through our board-certified TMJ and TMD specialists.

Preventive Measures for TMD Pain


Here are a few of our best strategies to prevent TMJ from getting worse and to reduce symptoms:

  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet
  • Get plenty of daily exercise
  • Implement and maintain good sleep habits 
  • Take high-quality vitamin supplements (and drink plenty of water with them!). 

Order Your Supplements Here


Patient Experiences with TMJ Pain Treatment

Our dental sleep medicine clinic specializes in a variety of TMJ and related disorders. Hear from a few of our satisfied patients:


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