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Clicking Jaw – it could be TMJ

October 16, 2019

What is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?

The Temporomandibular Joint is the jaw joint. We have two joints which work together as a pair, one in front of each ear. The joints connect the lower jaw bone (the mandible) to the temporal bones of the skull on each side of the head. The muscles controlling the joints are attached to the mandible and allow the jaw to move in three directions: up and down, side to side, and forward and back.

The TMJ is the most constantly used joint in the body. The round upper end of the lower jaw is the condyle; the socket is called the articular fossa. Between the condyle and the fossa there is a disk made of cartilage that acts as a cushion to absorb stress and allow the condyle to move easily when the mouth opens and closes.

What are Temporomandibular Disorders?

The term temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) refers to a group of disorders affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and the associated muscles. These disorders share the symptoms of pain, limited mouth opening and joint noises.

TMJ symptoms are relatively common, affecting up to 25% of the population, although only about 5% seek medical help for their symptoms. TMDs may occur at any age but are more common in women and between 20 and 50 years of age.

Why the Click?

A soft cartilage disk cushions the two bone surfaces. In people with TMD, the disk is often out of its normal position. When the mouth is opened, the disk snaps back into its normal position, causing a click; when the mouth is closed, it becomes displaced again, causing another click. Clicks and other joint sounds are common; they are not significant unless there are other symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

The pain of TMJ disorders is often described as a dull pain, which comes and goes in the jaw joint and nearby areas. However, some people report no pain but still have problems moving their jaw. Symptoms may include the following:


Occasional clicking or discomfort in the jaw joint or chewing muscles is common and is not always a cause for concern. Often, the problem goes away on its own in several weeks to months.

TMJ symptoms usually coincide with stressful life events. People that consciously or unconsciously grind or clench their teeth (for example at night whilst asleep) tend to suffer from TMDs more often.

If the pain is severe and lasts more than a few weeks, you should seek advice.


How are TMJ Disorders Managed?

Conservative treatment is effective in most cases. If you experience one of the above symptoms, initially you should consider to:

If you are clenching or grinding your teeth, you may benefit from a splint or night bite-guard. This is a clear removable customised mouthguard which is worn over the teeth usually overnight. The biteguard helps the facial muscles to relax and also protects the teeth from wear.

Alternative treatments such as acupuncture and botox may be helpful but the research evidence is not conclusive.

Drug treatment or surgical intervention may be needed in selected cases, where symptoms persist. These are usually prescribed and delivered by specialists such as Oral or Maxilofacial surgeons. In some cases, low dose antidepressants can help. Injection using a steroid or hyaluronic acid into the joint is used sometimes. Surgery may be indicated for some patients, mainly when conservative treatments are not successful. Lifelong non-invasive conservative treatment usually precedes and follows any surgical joint treatment. There are some surgical options procedures but these treatments are kept as a last resort and can cause complications.


At Dee Shapland dental, our dentists will examine your joint and if they diagnose a TMJ disorder will advise you accordingly about how to best manage your condition. We also provide night bite-guards for patients who grind or clench their teeth and also have signs of severe tooth-wear.


This blog has been written by Anastasios Plessas, Associate Dentist





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