Welcome to Jaw Pain Headquarters, your resource for information about jaw pain and TMJ disorder.
Jaw pain is most often caused by inflammation in the TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint. It can also be caused by a degradation of the cartilage in the joint, known as arthritis.
The medical words for this type of jaw pain are TMJ syndrome or TMJ disorder. The disorder used to be called TMJ or TMD (even though technically TMJ refers only to the joint) and many people still use these terms to describe issues with the jaw joint, but now the official acronym is TMJD for temporomandibular joint disorder.
The joint that connects your mandible, or lower jaw, to your upper jaw is complex. It allows your jaw to move up and down, side to side, forwards and back, and any combination of those movements. It is full of different tiny muscles and ligaments to allow this movement. To find your TMJ, put your finger in front of your ears and make a chewing motion with your mouth. You’ll be able to feel the joint moving.
After chronic back-pain, TMJD is the second more common musculoskeletal disorder. It affects between five and twelve percent of the United States population. However, only around 15% of those people will develop chronic pain associated with the temporomandibular joint.
Treatment can be difficult for long-term TMJD. Doctor often have trouble deducing exactly what muscles or ligaments are creating problems. Furthermore, TMJ disorders are not particularly well researched yet. If you are experiencing intense or regular jaw pain, consider consulting a medical professional, as jaw pain can be an extremely serious condition and more difficult to treat the longer you wait.
Temporary jaw pain, caused by inflammation to the temporomandibular joint from an increase in stress or an injury to the jaw, is often much easier to treat than chronic pain. While we still recommend consulting your doctor about any jaw pain, temporary jaw pain might be relieved with stretching, massaging, and hot-cold treatments. Long-term jaw pain can be caused by stress, teeth grinding (bruxism), clenching of the jaw, injury to the jaw, or arthritis (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid).
After a diagnosis of TMJ disorder your doctor should give you various treatment options for your jaw pain. Short-term relief from medical professionals is usually based on pain medications, but there no medications to fix the underlying problems. Your doctor may also recommend surgery. While your doctor’s opinion on surgery is important, many professionals recommend exploring other options and getting a second opinion before committing to surgery, as there is very little information on the success of TMJ surgeries. Surgery can also cause other problems and can take a long time to recover from.
Alternative treatments to surgery include those you can do yourself, and treatments by professionals. The treatments that can be done at home include stretching exercises, temperature therapy, diet changes, yoga exercises, and more. These can be especially effective if done with professional treatments such as acupuncture, biofeedback training, and massage therapy. More treatment options can be seen on the TMJ Treatment page.
Before moving forward with any treatment option, you should find a board-certified TMJ specialist. They will be able to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information on TMJ treatments.