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Do I Have TMJ? Common Signs & Symptoms

June 19, 2024
Do I Have TMJ? Common Signs & Symptoms

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction, can have a severe impact on your daily life. If you experience facial, jaw, neck, or ear pain, you may feel concerned that you have TMJ. Fortunately, TMJ usually responds well to non-invasive treatments.

This blog will describe TMJ's most common signs and symptoms and share what you and your orthodontist can do to ease your discomfort.

Symptoms of TMJ

  • Jaw pain or stiffness
  • Facial pain
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • A popping or clicking sound coming from the jaw (sometimes accompanied by pain)
  • Difficulty with opening or closing the mouth
  • Jaw locking
  • Headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Altered dental bite

About TMJ

TMJ happens when the temporomandibular joints and associated muscles become painful and inflamed. You have two temporomandibular joints, one on either side of your jaw. The joints are complex sliding hinges that connect your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull. A healthy temporomandibular joint can move in many ways. When TMJ develops, movement often becomes excruciating.

Causes of TMJ

Doctors cannot always pinpoint why TMJ develops; multiple factors may be in play.

Jaw Injury

One of the most common triggers for TMJ is a jaw injury. Car accidents, sports accidents, and falls are three examples. Any injury to the jaw joint can misalign it and cause pain.


Degenerative arthritis in the temporomandibular joint is another prevalent cause.

Disc Problems

The TMJ joint has a disc inside that cushions its movement. When this disc becomes damaged or displaced, pain will result.


Bruxism (chronic teeth grinding) and TMJ often occur together. Patients who habitually grind their teeth put stress on the joints and muscles, which can develop into TMJ.

Poor Dental Bite

Some patients with crooked teeth (malocclusion) experience TMJ pain. Orthodontic care can realign a poor dental bite.

Jaw Dislocation

A dislocated jaw joint can cause pain, limit movement, and make the patient feel their jaw is locked.

Treatment for TMJ

Most orthodontists recommend trying supportive care before progressing to more invasive treatments. We have many options that can help you find pain relief:

Cold Therapy

Ice packs can help relieve swelling and soothe pain. Some patients find relief from alternating warm and cold packs.

Diet Changes

Orthodontists advise patients to avoid eating anything tough or chewy, like steaks, and certain candies, like taffy. Switching to a softer diet allows the muscles to relax and heal. Also, avoid chewing gum if you have TMJ.


Some patients find relief when taking over-the-counter pain medication or muscle relaxants. Others receive Botox injections to relax their tense jaw muscles and relieve headaches.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Your orthodontist may prescribe a night guard to relieve jaw pressure from teeth grinding. A night guard keeps the jaws in a neutral position.


Surgical intervention can help the most severe cases of TMJ. Most patients can find relief before needing surgery. It is most commonly performed when patients have arthritis or dislocation.

The Connection Between TMJ and Stress

When patients feel stressed, they often clench their teeth or jaws. Regularly performing this motion can inflame the joints and muscles in the jaw area.

Patients who have TMJ pain may experience an escalating cycle, with their pain exacerbating their stress level, which in turn increases their discomfort.

Many orthodontists recommend stress relief techniques as a supportive treatment for TMJ. Meditation and yoga can help tense patients relax.

Activities to Avoid With TMJ

  • Using your teeth as tools
  • Chewing ice or pens
  • Biting fingernails or cuticles
  • Yawning widely
  • Chewing gum
  • Clenching or holding your teeth in contact

Frequently Asked Questions About TMJ

My jaw pops and clicks, but it doesn't hurt. Do I have TMJ?

Any popping or clicking sounds warrant visiting your orthodontist, especially if accompanied by jaw pain. In some cases, the noises are harmless.

How does a night guard help with TMJ?

A custom night guard from your orthodontist helps keep the jaws comfortable and relaxed during sleep. The appliance helps to prevent teeth grinding, which makes TMJ pain worse.

Call Legacy Smiles Orthodontic Specialists

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it's not too late to receive treatment. While some cases of TMJ go away on their own, many patients benefit from an orthodontist's guidance. Please call our Las Cruces, NM, office at 575-522-1500 to schedule a consultation today.

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Legacy Smiles Orthodontic Specialists
2701 Missouri Ave Suite D
Las Cruces, NM 88011
Tel: 575-522-1500 | Fax: 575-521-1529
Monday | 8:00am-4:00pm
Tuesday | 8:00am-4:00pm
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Contact our office today to schedule your appointment!

2701 Missouri Ave Suite D Las Cruces, NM 88011
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