TMJ is More Common Than You Think: Learn the Symptoms

Feb 05, 2024
TMJ is a surprisingly common — yet frequently misdiagnosed — chronic pain condition. Learn about tell-tale symptoms and causes of jaw joint dysfunction, and find out what you can do to manage your jaw health.

A temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly referred to as TMJ, often goes unrecognized or misdiagnosed. TMJ involves the temporomandibular joint, a “sliding hinge” joint that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, just in front of each ear. Your TMJs allow fluid, full jaw movement, so you can talk, chew, and yawn with ease.

Our expert team at Repair, Recover, Restore in White Plains and Port Chester, New York, specializes in diagnosing and treating TMJ pain. Read on to learn more about the tell-tale symptoms and causes of jaw joint dysfunction, and find out what you can do to manage the problem and improve your jaw health.

What is TMJ?

TMJ disorders encompass a range of problems associated with the jaw joint and muscles controlling jaw movement. These issues can cause significant discomfort and impact your quality of life. The complexity of this joint and its frequent use makes it susceptible to various disorders, all of which are grouped under the umbrella term TMJ.

TMJ symptoms

The symptoms of TMJ can vary widely from person to person, which is one reason why it's sometimes overlooked. Common TMJ symptoms include:

Pain in the jaw area

One of the most noticeable symptoms of TMJ is pain which is often described as a dull, aching sensation in the jaw joint and nearby areas, including the ear area.

Difficulty or pain while chewing 

TMJ can make it difficult to chew, and people may experience pain while eating. This symptom can sometimes be mistaken for dental problems.

Clicking or popping sounds

The clicking or popping sounds that occur during jaw movement are a hallmark sign of TMJ. Not all jaw clicking and popping sensations are cause for concern, but if they’re accompanied by pain or limited jaw movement, it probably indicates TMJ.

Facial pain and tenderness

TMJ can cause radiating pain that extends to the facial muscles, leading to an overall feeling of facial discomfort or tenderness.

Headaches and earaches

Frequent earaches and headaches, especially in the temple area, can be associated with TMJ, often due to tension in the jaw muscles.

Locking of the joint

In some cases, the jaw joint may stiffen until it “locks,” making it difficult to open or close the mouth. This is a particularly distressing TMJ symptom.

Causes of TMJ

The exact cause of TMJ disorders is often difficult to determine. Possible causes include:

  • Injury to the jaw or joint
  • Arthritis
  • Erosion of the disk in the joint over time
  • Habitual teeth clenching or grinding
  • Genetic factors

In some cases, connective tissue diseases may affect the jaw joint and lead to TMJ.

Who’s at risk of developing TMJ?

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing TMJ disorders, including:


Women are more likely to develop TMJ disorders than men, particularly between 20-40 years of age.

Chronic stress

High levels of stress can lead to habits like teeth grinding, a major contributing factor in many TMJ cases.

Other jaw conditions

Conditions like tooth or jaw misalignments can contribute to TMJ.

Diagnosis and treatment of TMJ

Diagnosis of TMJ typically involves a physical examination by an expert, who may also request dental X-rays, CT scans, or an MRI scan to assess the condition of the jaw joint and surrounding tissues. 

Treatment for TMJ disorders varies depending on its severity and cause and can range from self-care practices and medications to physical therapy and, in severe cases, surgery.

Self-care and lifestyle changes

For many people with TMJ, self-care measures can significantly alleviate symptoms. These include techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga to help reduce stress and, by extension, painful TMJ symptoms.

Jaw exercises that involve gentle stretching and strengthening can improve jaw movement and reduce symptoms. Eating softer foods and avoiding chewing gum can lessen the strain on the jaw and reduce TMJ symptoms, too.

Medical interventions for TMJ

If self-care measures don’t go far enough to ease TMJ pain, medical interventions might help:


We can prescribe pain relievers, muscle relaxants, or anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate TMJ symptoms.

Physical therapy

Our physical therapy team can teach you exercises to help strengthen and stretch your jaw muscles, improve jaw movement, and reduce pain.


Acupuncture for TMJ treatment involves the insertion of fine needles at specific points in your anatomy to release tension and ease pain in the jaw area. This Chinese medicine technique can help reduce symptoms such as jaw discomfort, clicking, and headaches.

Massage therapy 

Massage therapy for TMJ  involves targeted techniques to relax the muscles around the jaw, neck, and shoulders to reduce tension and pain. This approach can help alleviate symptoms like jaw stiffness, headaches, and discomfort while chewing.

Chiropractic care 

Chiropractic care for TMJ uses gentle, hands-on adjustments and manipulations to improve joint mobility and ease pain. This non-invasive treatment focuses on correcting misalignments in the jaw and spine, reducing symptoms like jaw pain, clicking, and difficulty chewing.

Oral appliances

We may prescribe an oral appliance like a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching, which can exacerbate TMJ symptoms.


In some cases, corticosteroid injections or Botox® may be used to relieve jaw tension and pain.


Surgery is typically considered a last resort and is reserved for severe cases where other treatments have failed.

Schedule an appointment today

TMJ is a common but often overlooked condition that can significantly impact your daily life. Recognizing its symptoms early and seeking appropriate treatment can greatly improve your outcome and your quality of life if you’re affected by this disruptive problem.

If you're experiencing TMJ symptoms, we’re here to help. Give us a call today, or click online to schedule a consultation with our experienced team at Repair, Recover, and Restore in White Plains and Port Chester, New York, anytime.