TMJ Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders refer to a group of conditions that affect the jaw joint and muscles surrounding it, causing discomfort, pain, or difficulty moving the jaw. As an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Jarom E. Maurer, DMD, at Bozeman Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery is well-equipped to diagnose and treat various TMJ disorders, helping patients find relief from pain and discomfort while restoring optimal jaw function. This blog post aims to provide an understanding of TMJ disorders, their common symptoms, potential causes, and the various treatment options available.

The temporomandibular joint is a complex, hinge-like structure that connects your lower jaw to the skull’s temporal bone. This joint, along with the surrounding muscles and ligaments, allows you to open and close your mouth, chew, swallow, and speak. TMJ disorders can result from various factors, including trauma, arthritis, bruxism (teeth grinding), malocclusion (misaligned bite), or a combination of these conditions.

Symptoms of TMJ disorders can range from mild to severe and may include jaw pain or tenderness, difficulty or discomfort while chewing, headaches, earaches, and a clicking or popping sound when opening or closing the mouth. These symptoms can be temporary or persist for an extended period, impacting an individual’s quality of life and daily functioning.

In the following sections of this blog post, we will delve into the potential causes, risk factors, and diagnostic process for TMJ disorders. We will also discuss various treatment options, from conservative measures to surgical interventions, to help patients find relief and improve their jaw function.

Potential Causes and Risk Factors for TMJ Disorders

Although the exact cause of any individual’s TMJ disorder may be difficult to pinpoint, several factors can contribute to or exacerbate the condition. Some common causes and risk factors include:

  1. Trauma or Injury: A direct impact to the jaw or excessive strain on the joint (such as sustained clenching/grinding) can damage the joint or lead to inflammation and discomfort.
  2. Arthritis: Inflammatory joint conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can cause degeneration of the TMJ, resulting in pain and loss of function.
  3. Bruxism: Unconscious teeth grinding and clenching can put excess pressure on the TMJ, leading to chronic pain and joint dysfunction over time.
  4. Malocclusion: Misaligned teeth can cause an uneven distribution of force across the jaw joint, contributing to TMJ disorders by stressing the joint and surrounding muscles.
  5. Genetics: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing TMJ disorders, making them more susceptible to the condition.

Diagnosing TMJ Disorders

A comprehensive examination by an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon like Dr. Maurer is essential for accurately diagnosing and treating TMJ disorders. The diagnostic process may involve:

  1. Patient History: Obtaining a detailed history of your symptoms, including the onset, duration, and severity, helps your doctor understand the extent of your TMJ dysfunction.
  2. Physical Examination: Palpating the TMJ and surrounding muscles can reveal areas of tenderness, inflammation, or restriction, providing valuable insight into the root cause of your symptoms.
  3. Range of Motion Assessment: Your ability to open and close your mouth, as well as side-to-side movement and other jaw functions, will be evaluated to assess the joint’s overall function and mobility.
  4. Imaging Studies: Dental X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be used to visualize the joint and look for any structural abnormalities or signs of degeneration.

Treatment Options for TMJ Disorders

Once your TMJ disorder has been accurately diagnosed, an appropriate treatment plan can be devised to address your specific needs. Treatment options generally range from conservative approaches to surgical interventions and may include the following:

  1. Self-Care Measures: In many cases, mild to moderate TMJ symptoms can be managed through simple self-care measures, such as eating a soft diet, using heat and cold therapy, and practicing gentle jaw exercises to improve mobility.
  2. Oral Appliances: Custom-fitted mouthguards or splints, also known as occlusal appliances, can help alleviate symptoms for some patients by reducing teeth grinding or clenching and providing a more even distribution of bite force.
  3. Medications: Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, muscle relaxants, or anti-inflammatory medications can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  4. Physical Therapy: Targeted stretches and exercises can help improve jaw function, strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint, and reduce pain.
  5. Counseling: For patients with TMJ disorders related to stress or anxiety, psychological counseling may help address the root cause of teeth grinding or clenching by implementing stress management techniques.
  6. Orthodontic Treatment: In cases where malocclusion is contributing to TMJ dysfunction, orthodontic treatment to correct the bite can prove beneficial in relieving symptoms.
  7. Surgical Procedures: When conservative treatments have been exhausted or are insufficient in addressing the issue, surgical options such as arthroscopy or arthroplasty may be considered to restore function and relieve pain in more severe cases.


TMJ disorders can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, making it essential to seek expert care from a skilled oral and maxillofacial surgeon like Dr. Jarom E. Maurer. At Bozeman Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, we take a patient-centered approach to diagnose and treat TMJ disorders, striving to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and concerns. If you believe you may be suffering from a TMJ disorder, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation to discuss your symptoms and explore the most effective treatment options for restoring comfort and functionality to your jaw.

If you’re in need of an oral surgeon in Bozeman, look no further than Bozeman Oral Surgery and Implant. Dr. Jarom E. Maurer and his team offer a full range of oral and maxillofacial surgery services, including wisdom tooth removal, dental implants, and corrective jaw surgery. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards a healthier, happier smile.