TMJ & Jaw Pain Treatment

TMJ & Jaw Pain Treatment

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / Jaw Popping & Jaw Pain

Many people have experienced pain or popping in their jaw, but how common is it, and should you be concerned? TMJ is very common and when diagnosed early, proper jaw pain treatment can have you saying goodbye to that awful popping.

I’ve heard of TMJ, but what is it?

Temporomandibular disorders are medically known as TMD, however, it’s general referred to as TMJ. The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the skull. Controlled by five muscles and acting somewhat as a hinge, these allow you to move your jaw up and down, side to side, and front to back. The joint is protected during these movements by a soft tissue disc.

When should you seek jaw pain treatment?

TMJ can be progressive so seek treatment if:

  • Your jaw pops frequently (on a weekly basis)
  • It’s painful to open, or a grinding sound occurs when opening
  • You experience headaches (especially temporal), back pain, or neck pain
  • You have tender or tight cheek muscles
  • You cannot open wide (more than 4cm – grab a ruler and mirror)
  • You experience tooth or sinus pain
  • You have worn or cracked fillings or teeth
Why Physical Therapy?

Success of jaw pain treatment is much higher when splint therapy is combined with physical therapy. It’s important to be conservative and yet treat symptoms early, because there is a very poor prognosis for patients that have to undergo TMJ surgery. The key to successful jaw pain treatment is patience and persistence, after all it is the most complex joint in the body!



This article on TMJ and jaw pain treatment was written in part by Dr. Scott Robinson DOS. The staff at Robinson Dental have been longtime friends of Northern Physical Therapy. If you’re looking for a dentist in the Coopersville or Wayland areas, Robinson Dental is a trusted provider.

Why do people have TMJ issues?

TMJ can be brought on by a number of factors. Trauma from a car accident or a blow to the head may seem obvious, but yawning, gum chewing, or dental treatment can also trigger TMJ symptoms. One of the most common causes of TMJ is nighttime clenching or grinding your teeth, which can be triggered by an uneven bite and is commonly linked to high stress levels. Other causes may be arthritis or a degenerative breakdown of the joint itself.

My joint ‘pops” but it doesn’t hurt. Should I be worried?
You may not be worried about the actual popping, but chances are, you’re worried about something. Here’s where that link between TMJ and stress comes into play. Popping in your joint is not normal, it’s actually a sign of the protective disc being displaced prior to the lower jaw sliding forward. This could be a sign that one or more of the muscles that control the joint is in constant tension and causing disharmony with the joint. The frequent popping may cause headaches, neck pain, and back aches that you may not have associated with your jaw.
What's Next? Treatment Options

The first step is getting your TMJ diagnosed. You can start by scheduling a free consultation with one of our physical therapists. Your primary care doctor can also diagnose TMJ issues but it is much more common for your dentist to evaluate, diagnose and begin treatment. Some insurance plans require a diagnosis before jaw pain treatment may be covered.

lt’s typical to start with an x-ray of the joint so we can rule out deterioration. Most times an acrylic bite guard will be made for nighttime grinding or day wear if you know you clench throughout the day. The splint has to be fitted so that the joint is in the most relaxed position. Over the counter splints can cause more harm than good and should only be worn to protect teeth when the TMJ is asymptomatic. Following your dental treatment you will most likely be given a referral for physical therapy, which is a safe and natural option for jaw pain treatment.

Smoking and nail biting has been shown to contribute to TMJ issues.

Physical therapy can help jaw popping and jaw pain

“I had TMJ pain from fibromyalgia. After receiving treatment at Northern, I would’t go anywhere else for therapy. The staff is great and so helpful!” – Cori M., Norton Shores / Muskegon physical therapy patient

If your jaw is popping, clicking, or hurts, give physical therapy a try. You can schedule a free assessment today.