TMJ Center of Los Angeles

Do You Have Trouble Opening and Closing Your Mouth? You May Have TMJ Disorder

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Your lower jaw is connected to your upper jaw and skull by hinges on both sides (known as the temporomandibular joint or TMJ), which you can feel if you put your fingers in front of your earlobes and open and close your mouth. If you have trouble even doing this because your jaw seems to lock up, if this is painful, or you hear a popping or clocking sound when you do it, you probably have TMJ Disorder. 

The most common other symptoms can be pain when you chew, soreness around your face, neck, or upper back, frequent headaches, sensitive teeth, unconscious clenching of teeth, and occasional ringing in the ears, feeling they are congested, or earaches.

Aside from these and other indicators, the Mayo Clinic explains that there are a number of ways to have this diagnosed, starting with a physical exam by your dentist. You may be asked to have a digital x-ray (which results in very little radiation). If that is not sufficiently revealing, the next step would be a CT scan. Or you may require even an MRI (which does not involve radiation and can show problems with the tissue surrounding the TMJ).

The TMJ is one of the few joints that can move in three directions (another is the knee) and it can withstand normal biomechanical stress, but trauma, such as an accident, missing teeth, or grinding teeth while you sleep (bruxism) can change the bite and dislocate this joint. Although anyone can suffer from TMJ Disorder, pre-menopausal women 18-44 constitute 90% of the cases. Why?

1. Menstruation can cause a lack of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially calcium and magnesium, which help bones, including joints, stay dense.

2. Their type of collagen protein that holds the discs of joints in place is weaker than that in men.

3. Links have been found between TMJD and the use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.

4. Women are often under great stress because of expectations at their jobs, while they also tend to share a greater part of the burden for everything from cooking and cleaning at home to childcare and school for their kids. Stress often prompts people to chew gum excessively, which can lead to this joint being dislocated.

5. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia can damage the TMJ and are more common in women.


Wilshire Smile Studio has experts in treating TMJ Disorder:

    • We can give Botox injections in the TMJ area that will help the jaw relax and alleviate pain.

    • If the bite is misaligned because of old dental work, such as crowns or veneers, new ones can be put in place.

    • If TMJD is due to missing teeth, these need to be replaced with dental implants ASAP or the jaw will start losing bone and cause other teeth to fall out or need to be extracted, eventually requiring a denture. Implants can prevent this.

    • If bite problems are due to crooked teeth, these can be gently straightened with Invisalign aligners (invisible biocompatible oral trays), which do not require dietary restrictions (unlike braces) because they are taken out when eating.

    • A personalized orthotic splint is an FDA-approved oral device we can create with our dental laboratory which is worn at night and gradually returns the TMJ to its proper position. If a patient finds his or her jaw clenching from tension while working at a computer, exercising, or even watching TV, a different oral appliance can be designed to wear during the day. It is important to avoid hard and sticky foods or anything that requires lots of chewing until the treatment is done (even biting nails can be harmful).

    • We can also teach you neuromuscular exercises or recommend physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, ultrasound or laser therapy by specialists. Other practices that can reduce stress and help the jaw relax include meditation, biofeedback, psychotherapy or other counseling, and even the pursuit of enjoyable hobbies.

    • We can prescribe anti-inflammatories, pain medication for limited time, or muscle relaxants.

    • In the most serious cases of TMJ Disorder, our oral surgeon may need to repair underlying jaw problems (which is always painless thanks to our wide range of anesthetic options).


If you think you may have a dislocated TMJ, call us at (323) 475-6132 or book online for a free dental exam and discussion about the your best options for treatment.

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TMJ Center of Los Angeles


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