TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. The temporomandibular joint acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.

The exact cause of a person’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Your pain may be due to a combination of factors, such as genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury. Some people who have jaw pain also tend to clench or grind their teeth.

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorder:

  • Grinding or clenching your teeth
  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw
  • Pain in one or both of your temporomandibular joints
  • Frequent headaches and neck aches
  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
  • Locking of the joint when you open your mouth, eat, or yawn

TMJ Evaluation: At your consultation Dr. Scarbrough will listen to and feel your jaw when you open and close your mouth, observe the range of motion in your jaw, and press on areas around your jaw to identify sites of pain and discomfort. We will also take a series of x-rays to examine your teeth and jaw, a CT Scan to provide detailed images of the bones involved in the joint and, in some cases we will need to get an MRI to reveal problems with the joint’s disk or surrounding soft tissue.

In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders may go away without treatment. If your symptoms persist, Dr. Scarbrough may recommend a variety of treatment options.

TMJ Treatment:

  • Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories: if over the counter pain medications are not enough to relieve TMJ pain, then Dr. Scarbrough may prescribe stronger pain relievers for a limited time.
  • Muscle relaxants: Dr. Scarbrough may prescribe these for a few days or a few weeks to help relieve pain caused by TMJ disorders caused by muscle spasms.

Therapy and Surgery: when other methods do not help, Dr. Scarbrough may try therapy or surgery.

  • Oral splints or mouth guards: often patients with jaw pain will benefit from wearing a soft or firm device inserted over their teeth.   
  • Injections: corticosteroid injections into the joint maybe helpful. Injecting Botox into the jaw muscles used for chewing may relieve pain associated with TMJ disorders.
  • Arthrocentesis: a minimally invasive procedure that involves the insertion of small needles into the joint so that fluid can be irrigated though the joint to remove debris and inflammatory byproducts.
  • TMJ Arthroscopy: can be effective in treating various types of TMJ disorders. A small thin tube (cannula) is placed into the joint space, an arthroscope is then inserted, and small surgical instruments are used for surgery.
  • Modified Condylotomy: addresses the TMJ indirectly, with surgery on the mandible, but not in the joint itself. It may be helpful for treatment of pain and if locking is experienced.
  • Open-joint surgery: if your jaw pain does not resolve with more-conservative treatments and it appears to be caused by a structural problem in your joint, Dr. Scarbrough may suggest open-joint surgery (arthrotomy) to repair or replace the joint.

Dr. Scarbrough and our TMJ specialist will come up with a plan that will be best for you and your specific TMJ disorder.