TMJ Disorders

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) do not work together correctly. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your jaw to your skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.

No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment takes time to become effective. The doctors can help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.

Trouble With Your Jaw?

TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when you open your mouth or trouble opening your mouth wide.

Do You Have A TMJ Disorder?

Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaws?
Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?

The more times you answered “yes”, the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.


There are various treatment options that Dr  Niki Dodek Gorman and Dr. Sam Dodek can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Dr. Niki Dodek Gorman or Dr. Sam Dodek will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care joined with professional care.

The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasm and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Practicing good posture

  A removable, clear plastic appliance known as a splint. A splint  fits over your top or bottom teeth (sometimes both) and helps keep your teeth apart, and also help to protect from tooth wear, and correcting joint signs/symptoms.. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A occlusal guard, and an occlusal orthotic are two devices made by your dentist (must be adjusted to properly fit you through a series of short appointments). Occlusal guard helps protect teeth from wear from clenching or grinding, and should reduce muscle tension when worn. An occlusal orthotic helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces from advancing signs and symptoms. An occlusal orthotic is a jaw joint stabilization appliance recommended if your joint is not hinging smoothly; is worn 24 hours/day or just at night to support your jaw to rest in proper position to allow healing of joint symptoms.  An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relives pressure on parts of your jaw and aids in disk repositioning.  It may be worn 24 hours/day to help your jaw heal. 

What About Bite Correction Or Surgery?

If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need further treatment after the joint is stabilized with appliance therapy. Treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics, and  restorative dental work help correct functional problems.If surgery is needed, Surgical options such as arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases. The doctors do not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and nonreducible, has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.