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gloved hand using pen to point out TMJ on model skull

November is National TMJ Awareness Month

November is National TMJ Awareness Month, a national effort to educate those who suffer from the often overlooked, sometimes misdiagnosed and often painful TMJ disorder. Dysfunction of the TMJ can cause pain and limit lifestyle. 

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that TMJ disorders may affect over 10 million Americans.

What is TMJ?

TMJ is short for the temporomandibular joint, commonly known as the jaw joint. It connects your jaw to your skull and when working properly, the TMJ acts as a smooth hinge, allowing for the complex movements we use in everyday life such as breathing, swallowing, eating and speech.

According to Physiopedia, a variety of movements occur in the TMJ. These movements are mandibular opening, closing and side movements (which occurs to both the right and left sides), retrusion and protrusion. Each of these movements are performed by a number of muscles working together to perform the movement while controlling the position of the condyle within the mandibular fossa.

TMJ disorder, called TMD (Temporomandibular dysfunction) can occur as a result of a displacement, tear or deformation of the disc in between the bony components of the joint, bony changes in the head of the joint (condyle), inflammation or trauma to the capsule around the joint and/or an imbalance or dysfunction in the muscles connected to the joint. These changes can cause pain, clicking and popping noises and/or sticking or locking of the jaw.

What Treatments are Available for TMJ?

Treatments for TMJ disorder depend on the cause of the problem and can range from change in diet to muscle relaxants to use of custom-made acrylic guides fitted for the teeth.

In certain cases of TMJ disorder, jaw surgery may need to be required to allow a patient to perform everyday activities.

Board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeons will run tests and evaluate a patient’s need for surgery based on:

    • Bite misalignments and other problems
    • Breathing issues
    • Chewing problems
    • Chronic jaw joint pain
    • Protrusions of the jaw
    • Speech difficulties
    • Swallowing problems

8 Ways You Can Prevent TMJ Pain

Obviously, surgery is a last resort with TMJ pain so jaw joint suffers can try these five self-care steps at home to help relieve TMJ disorder symptoms and prevent pain:

  1. Get Zen: Learn stress-reducing techniques to avoid TMJ pain. It is believed that physical stress, mental stress, and emotional stress can all lead to the onset of TMJ disorder.

  2. Unwire Yourself: We live in an increasingly digital-first world and many of us are at our computers all day long. If you must be online most of your workday, take short breaks to rest your arms and loose up your neck and back muscles. And remember to maintain good posture while at your screen.

  3. Massage Time: Gently massaging your muscles can help release tension and prevent TMJ. Try the TMJ Kneading Massage, the Friction Massage and the TMJ Stretching Massage.

  4. Give Your Jaw a Break: Your jaw has enough hard work to do, give it a break by not overworking it. Avoid eating hard food and chewing gum for starters. Eating a softer diet can help your jaw stay relaxed at meal times.

  5. Hot and Cold: Both warm towels and ice (cold treatment should be applied no more than 15 minutes per hour and not directly on the skin) can provide relief.

  6. Stick a Needle in It: Some people find acupuncture relieves the symptoms of TMJ disorder. The Journal of Pain Medicine defines acupoints as specific sites on the body that contain a high number of nerve endings on the surface of the skin or just below. Acupoints for facial pain can include:
    • Hand
    • Earlobe
    • Foot
    • Above the hyoid bone, located in the neck
  7. Limit Large Movements: Limiting large jaw movements, such as singing or yawning, can help prevent TMJ disorder pain. 
  8. Bye-Bye to Bad Habits: So, good-bye to bad habits such as biting or chewing on your nails or biting or chewing on your lower lip.


The experienced surgeons at Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery can help you go over all your TMJ disorder treatment options, including the need for surgery. Contact any of our six offices today to set up an appointment.

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