Managing Jaw Joint Problems (TMJ)

Jaw Joint Problems (TMJ) can include clicking, pain or reduced opening.

Managing Jaw Joint Problems (TMJ)

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the related muscle disorders are problems that affect the chewing muscles and two joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull.

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:

  • Clicking of the jaw on chewing or yawning
  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth

In many cases, it’s not known what causes a TMJ disorder, but the condition is usually self-limiting and often gets better on its own (or at least will significantly improve).  Injury to the jaw sometimes plays a role. There are also other health conditions and habits that may contribute to the development of TMJ problems. These include:

  • Arthritis causing erosion of the joint
  • Habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth
  • Structural jaw problems present at birth

There are some other factors that are often associated with the development of TMJ problems, but they haven’t yet been fully proven. These include:

  • Previous orthodontic treatment
  • Poor posture that strains the muscles of the neck and face
  • Prolonged stress
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of sleep

In most cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders can be treated with self-care practices at home. To ease the symptoms, you can:

  • Eat softer foods to help rest the jaw and muscles
  • Avoid wide jaw opening (eg. shouting or singing, cut food up small)
  • Avoid chewing gum and tough, chewy foods (eg. toffee, some meat)
  • Try to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Use prescribed jaw exercises to help correct jaw movements
  • Use pain medications (such as ibuprofen taken regularly)
  • Customised bite guards to help prevent teeth grinding and to place the lower jaw in a more favourable position