TMJ Disorder

When there’s a problem with how the joints and muscles that let you open and close our mouths work, you may have a temporomandibular disorder or TMD.


  • Tender or sore jaw muscles - Your jaw may be even more painful when you wake up, clench your teeth, chew your food or yawn.
  • Problems opening or closing your mouth - It may be hard to open or close your jaw all the way, or your jaw may lock open or closed.
  • Headaches - You may also feel pain in your neck. These may be caused by TMD, or by other problems. Tell your dentist and your doctor.
  • Clicking or grinding noise when you chew or yawn - You may hear strange noises in your jaw joints, such as clicking or popping when you open your mouth, or crunching and grinding sounds when you chew.


The cause of TMD is not always clear, but in most cases stress is a major factor. Here are some other things that may cause it:

  • Clenching and grinding of teeth - Clenching your jaw muscles can cause them to ache. Some people grind their teeth or clench their jaw muscles when they are under stress.
  • Injury to your face or jaws - Broken (or fractured) jaws, dislocated joints, and “whiplash”
  • Some diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may affect the jaw joints and muscles.
  • Abnormalities in the development of the jaws.
  • Worn, loose or missing teeth
  • Gum problems
  • Partial or full dentures that are not the right fit
  • Habits such as biting on your pen or pencil

Treatments May Include

  • A referral to a physiotherapist, chiropractor and/or behavioral therapist to help ease muscle pain or open your jaw. 
  • Correcting problems with your teeth - If you have a bad bite, braces or other dental work may be used to correct the problem. Teeth that are causing the problem can sometimes be reshaped to fit together better.
  • Depending on the cause of your TMD, medicine for pain, inflammation, tense muscles or depression may help.
  • Wearing a night guard or bite plate (also called an occlusal splint) - An occlusal splint is made of clear plastic. It fits over the biting surface of the teeth of one jaw so that you bite against the splint rather than your teeth. This helps your jaw joints and muscles to relax. Depending on your TMD, your dentist may tell you to wear a splint 24 hours a day, only at night, or for some length of time in between.
  • If none of the other treatments have worked, or if it is very hard to open your jaw, you may need surgery.